This course will introduce students in American Studies and Women and Gender Studies to questions of the body, and encourage the development of a critical literacy in various forms of contemporary culture that produce definitions of “the body.” The body remains one of the most significant cites for the enactment of power relations and is hence a vital site for their production, transformation, and critique.
This course begins with the seemingly simple question “What is a Body?,” a question that will become the guide for the course as a whole as it interrogates the stakes that institutions such as law, medicine, and the state have in the answer. As the course progresses, it will become more apparent that not only is this not at all a simple question, or one with an answer we already know, but also that its very formulation often masks the particular racial, gendered, and sexualized practices that produce embodied difference.
Centering an interdisciplinary feminist approach, this course will explore a variety of contemporary U.S. cultural productions that privilege the body and encourage students to develop critical analytical skills to interrogate the world in which they currently live. The course will investigate the construction of bodies in a variety of cultural productions including film, photography, law, art, television, dance, and medicine. As a whole, the course will ask what the role of the body is in constructing ideologies of gender, race, sexuality, and U.S. national identity.