PaleoliTHICC: Understanding the Woman of Willendorf using contemporary fat studies
Name: Shelby Jones
Advisor: Dr. Siavash Samei; Dr. Beth Derderian (second reader)
My research focused on the Woman (“Venus”) of Willendorf figurine, one of the most famous Paleolithic figurines. Rather than arguing that she is a depiction of a fertility icon or a Mother Goddess, I argue that she should be understood as nothing more than a depiction of a fat woman. I also ask what modern perceptions of the Woman are. The initial research conducted for the literature review of this project indicated that there were four distinct anthropological “camps” that explain her creation: the Woman as a fertility icon, the Woman as a toy of some form, the Woman as a Mother Goddess, and the Woman as a fat person. Additionally, rather than keeping the Woman planted firmly in the Paleolithic era, I tie in the contemporary theoretical framework of “fat studies” to understand her place in the world as a fat woman. Fat studies is a discipline that aims to place fat bodies at the forefront of conversations and bring awareness to the oppression that fat people face. Jeannine Gailey’s theory of “hyper(in)visibility” further narrows the perspective on the Woman and experiences of those fat feminine bodies that resemble her. In order to answer the question about the modern perceptions of the Woman, a survey was sent to the College of Wooster student body, and the responses to this survey were analyzed using both quantitative and qualitative methods.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss this research further, please reach out to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org!
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