Extreme Bodies

Norm, Excess, and Transgression in Western Medicine

University of Vienna – CSMBR Joint Panel

18 September 2021, 2.30-3.30 pm (UTC+2)


Chair and Organiser:

Fabrizio Bigotti – CSMBR, JMU Würzburg, University of Exeter



Yijie Huang – University of Cambridge

Holly Fletcher – University of Sussex

Marsha Wubbels University Exeter

Raplh Alexander Pyrges – JMU Würzburg


click on the image to download the poster

Long before being measured, the body has been a unit of measurement and a canon in that it defines the norm within which health can be maintained and life can persist.

As all in-formal parameters, whose existence and value predate their conceptual manipulation – their apprehension being individual, private, implicit, and prelinguistic – the body-canon has defined the range of what is normal and abnormal in terms of excess and defect. However, the existence of different ways to express the normal and the abnormal across societies and cultures, in learned as well as in popular literature, inevitably plays a role in how the body is experienced, generating an array of cultural presuppositions, stereotypes, and expectations. Amongst these, a moral and political component should also be taken into account. Indeed, violating a norm implies an ethical stance towards perfecting, challenging, or transgressing accepted conventions.

An example of this is how corpulence and fat have been dealt with across the ages, being used to highlight the belonging to the upper class, or – on the contrary – gluttony, intemperance, and incapability of abiding by shared societal mores.

Sponsored by the Centre for the Study of Medicine and the Body in the Renaissance (CSMBR), this panel presents some of these entanglements, showing how the implications of the ‘nature vs nurture debate’ have been a constant preoccupation in Western medicine and culture more generally.



The event is free to attend at: 


For queries contact: info@csmbr.fondazionecomel.org