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Distributed for Reaktion Books

The Mummy’s Foot and the Big Toe

Feet and Imaginative Promise

The foot—we know it well. Small or large, attractive or unsightly, clean-smelling or foul, it is quite literally the support that carries us through the day. But while the foot may seem nothing more than banal and basic, this familiar assemblage of heel and toes also treads unlikely ground. Some of these sites are real, others are imaginary, and in this quirky and surprising history, Alan Krell strolls the many planes of the foot’s meaning. Looking at the absurd and abject, the innocent and the nastily subversive, the romantic and fetishistic, Krell reevaluates the foot’s place in society and frames it as a thing both commonplace and exceptional. 

The Mummy’s Foot and the Big Toe explores the innumerable appearances of the foot in literature, photography, art, sports, and film. Walk with Krell as he discovers gothic tales by French writer Théophile Gautier, disturbing photographs by François Boiffard, and religious paintings by Giotto, Tintoretto, and Caravaggio that all exalt the foot. Marvel with him at the sporting exploits of elite barefoot runners such as Abebe Bikila and Zola Budd, and the surprising representation of the foot in films such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Kill Bill. Blending insights from the humanities, language studies, the social sciences, and anthropology, and presenting a wealth of tantalizing new images and ideas of the foot, The Mummy’s Foot and the Big Toe will help us all to be better acquainted with the soul and sole of our bottom-most appendage.

192 pages | 25 color plates, 35 halftones | 4 3/4 x 8 | © 2018

History: General History

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"A feast for foot fetishists. Krell examines the foot as object of desire, empowering symbol of freedom, and vehicle of the comic and the absurd. . . . Krell has an eye for the odd, certainly, and there are some fascinating illustrations. And if nothing else, not many authors would be able to get Zola Budd, Mary Magdalene and Uma Thurman into the same book."


"There is really no other way to put it, but this is a very strange book, just as feet can be very strange things. . . . This book delves into the deeper world of feet. . . . Krell seeks to understand the reactions of writers, photographers, artists and normal people to feet through history. . . . It is an arcane and sometimes circuitous journey across time, one which reveals some interesting things about our soles and our souls."

Observer (Sydney)

“Krell’s observations and commentary are worthy of the array of literature and art he discusses—creative, imaginative, incisive. He picks up where notables such as Théophile Gautier, Georges Bataille, and Charlie Chaplin left off, exploring the cultural implications of what we do about feet: from fetishizing them, to binding them, to racing with them shoeless, to perceiving their nakedness as innocence.”

Richard Shiff, University of Texas at Austin

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