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A Body of Text: Physical Culture and the Marketing of Mobility

Lapin , Andrea Dale (2013) A Body of Text: Physical Culture and the Marketing of Mobility. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Drawing on Althusserian notions of ideology and Bourdieu’s understanding of bodily hexis, A Body of Text seeks to reframe Physical Culture as an artifact worthy of serious study, more complex and less reactionary than its beefcake-and-sentiment reputation might suggest. This dissertation addresses the story of Physical Culture magazine from three different perspectives, reading the magazine through lenses of media history, medical history and social context, in order to understand the ways in which class operated on and through the body. In contrast to nearly every other publication in the early twentieth century, Physical Culture suggested that class mobility was possible, and that success would naturally follow improvement of body and health. Whereas the idea of “fitness” in the eugenics movement very clearly indicated an essential condition, consequent to the quality of the germline, Physical Culture initiated the idea that fitness was obtainable – and commodifiable – through diet, exercise and what we now call “lifestyle.”
Much of this argument is constructed by contrasting Physical Culture with Hygeia, the health magazine created by the American Medical Association for a lay audience, and by contrasting Physical Culture impresario Bernarr Macfadden with his counterpart at the AMA, Morris Fishbein. Whereas Macfadden’s story has been told and retold (albeit in biographies that are increasingly interesting but not yet definitive), Fishbein’s story has yet to be the subject of a responsible biography. First gestures in that direction open the door to further work on Fishbein as a subject, and to deeper studies of the relationship between medicine, marketing and modern consumerism. Far from suggesting that Macfadden is ipso facto a liberatory force or a sophisticated theorist, the likeliest explanation for the complex, unstable and evolving constructions of body politics in Physical Culture are twofold: first, coming himself from “unfit” germlines, Macfadden needs to enrich contemporary thinking about the body to make sense of (and room for) his own success; second, and more importantly: you can’t sell a bloodline.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Lapin , Andrea
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairGlazener,>
Committee MemberArac,
Committee MemberScott, William Davidwdscott@pitt.eduWDSCOTT
Committee MemberMalin, Brentonbmalin@pitt.eduBMALIN
Date: 24 July 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 15 April 2013
Approval Date: 24 July 2013
Submission Date: 12 April 2013
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 203
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Physical Culture Magazine, Bernarr Macfadden, Morris Fishbein,eugenics
Date Deposited: 24 Jul 2013 18:12
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:14

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