restricted access Shaping Modern Bodies: Edith Wharton on Weight, Dieting, and Visual Media

Edith Wharton explored not only early twentieth-century dieting and changing weight ideals but also the role visual media played in this cultural shift in several novels from the 1910s and 1920s, including The Custom of the Country, The Glimpses of the Moon, Twilight Sleep, and The Children. Characters as diverse as Undine Spragg and Pauline Manford make fundamental choices about their bodies based on mass media’s prescriptions. Wharton anticipated these concerns in the early novel The House of Mirth, wherein she comments on a relatively new social reality: thinness bestows cultural capital.