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Beyond Pleasure: Cultures of Modern Asceticism

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Beyond Pleasure

Cultures of Modern Asceticism

Edited by Evert Peeters, Leen Van Molle and Kaat Wils

260 pages, 35 ills, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-84545-773-0 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (April 2011)

eISBN 978-1-84545-987-1 eBook

Hb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook from these vendors Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


Asceticism, so it is argued in this volume, is a modern category. The ubiquitous cult of the body, of fitness and diet equally evokes the ongoing success of ascetic practices and beliefs. Nostalgic memories of hardship and discipline in the army, youth movements or boarding schools remain as present as the fashionable irritation with the presumed modern-day laziness. In the very texture of contemporary culture, age-old asceticism proves to be remarkably alive. Old ascetic forms were remoulded to serve modern desires for personal authenticity, an authenticity that disconnected asceticism in the course of the nineteenth century from two traditions that had underpinned it since classical antiquity: the public, republican austerity of antiquity and the private, religious asceticism of Christianity. Exploring various aspects such as the history of the body, of aesthetics, science, and social thought in several European countries (Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria and Belgium), the authors show that modern asceticism remains a deeply ambivalent category. Apart from self-realisation, classical and religious examples continue to haunt the ascetic mind.

Evert Peeters received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Leuven, where he is currently working as a postdoctoral research fellow. He has published on Lebensreform in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and on historiography and nationalism in early nineteenth-century Belgium.

Leen Van Molle teaches contemporary social history at the University of Leuven. Her main research interests are in rural and gender history. She has recently published on Belgian women entrepreneurs, the history of allotment gardening and an overview of recent research on rural history in the North Sea area.

Kaat Wils teaches contemporary cultural history at the University of Leuven. Her research focuses on the gendered history of medicine and the human sciences in the nineteenth and twentieth century and on nineteenth-century positivism and intellectual culture.

Subject: General Cultural Studies General History
Area: Europe


List of Figures

Introduction: Modern Asceticism: A Historical Exploration
Evert Peeters, Kaat Wils and Leen Van Molle


Chapter 1. The Performance of Redemption: Asceticism and Liberation in Belgian Lebensreform
Evert Peeters

Chapter 2. Asceticism and Pleasure in German Health Reform: Patients as Clients in Wilhelmine Sanatoria
Michael Hau


Chapter 3. Moving Images and the Popular Imagination: Visual Pleasure and Film Censorship in Comparative Perspective
Thomas J. Saunders

Chapter 4. ‘The Wo that Is in Marriage’: Abstinence in Practice and Principle in British Marriages, 1890s–1940s
Lesley A. Hall

Chapter 5. Ascetiscism in Modern Social Thought
Henk de Smaele


Chapter 6. Adolf Loos and the Doric Order
Wessel Krul

Chapter 7. Disguised Asceticism: The Promotion of Austerity in Interior Design during the Interwar Period in Flanders, Belgium
Sofie De Caigny


Chapter 8. The Revelation of a Modern Saint: Marie Curie’s Scientific Asceticism and the Culture of Professionalised Science
Kaat Wils

Chapter 9. Ludwig Wittgenstein, the Tractatus and the Linguistic Turn in Modern Asceticism
Klass Berkel


Chapter 10. Necessity into Virtue: The Culture of Postwar Reconstruction in Western Europe between Asceticism and Anti-Asceticism
Marnix Beyen

Chapter 11. Modern Asceticism and Contemporary Body Culture
Julia Twigg

Notes on Contributors

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