Imagining the Body
Revised Last Updated: 04/07/2009
Fall and Winter quarters
Major areas of study include gender and sexuality, European and American history, movement, sociology, cultural anthropology and writing.
Class Standing: This lower-division program is designed for 50% freshmen and 50% sophomores.
Accepts Winter Enrollment: This program will accept new students without signature. Students are encouraged to contact faculty via email. New students should expect to complete some catch-up work during the December break.
Our bodies are physically and socially constructed entities that influence our identities. The way we move, adorn, and utilize our bodies all reflect and also help shape our sense of who we are, most notably in terms of our gender and sexuality. In a way, our appearance is linked with our essence. But how have bodies been used and understood over time and across cultures? Throughout history, the significance of the body and its relationship to individual and group identity has been socially constructed in ways that have had profound impacts on power and gender dynamics.
This two-quarter program will take a historical and cross-cultural look at how our notions of gender and sexuality are embodied in our experiences through an examination of topics such as pain, pleasure, fashion, prostitution, body modification, aging, ability, standards of beauty and reproduction. We will primarily focus on the gradual creation of modern Western perceptions of the body from the middle ages to the present, using cross-cultural examples for comparison. Case studies might include the medieval Catholic cult of saints' relics, the rage for exotic costuming in pre-revolutionary France, the struggle between enslaved people and their owners for the physical control of slave bodies in the 19th century U.S. South, changing standards of masculine and feminine beauty in 20th century America and Europe, and contemporary attitudes towards body modification and transgender/transsexuality. Cross-cultural examples may include foot binding in early modern China, puberty rituals across eras and societies, and the relationship between adornment and ritual in selected non-Western cultures.
Grasping the significance of the body involves studies of personal psychology and physiology as well as studies of historical, social and cultural variations in experiences and identities. We must recognize how our own bodies and identities are located within a particular social, cultural and historical context. In this program, all of our work will be guided by our ability to develop a grounded understanding of our own bodies and internal authority. To that end, we will engage in regular, serious experiential movement workshops to begin the work of coming to know our bodies and our external reality through our bodies. Through breath and the fluidity of yoga in fall, and through the Five Rhythms dance cycle of flowing, staccato, chaotic, lyrical, and stillness in winter, weekly movement sessions will help students develop a physical comprehension of the body, learning to understand, interpret, and trust the messages we receive from bodily sensations everyday. Movement workshops will help us become more sensitive to our inner world by exploring breath, sound, and fluidity.
In addition to these experiential workshops, we will also develop our understanding of embodied identities through lectures, disciplinary workshops, films, and a series of guest speakers. Students should expect to engage in weekly critical book seminars, regular writing assignments, in-depth research and writing projects, independent and collaborative work, and regular program discussion.
Credits: 16 per quarter
Program is preparatory for careers and future studies in social sciences, humanities and expressive arts.
|July 22nd, 2008||This program is now accepting sophomores in addition to freshmen.|
|December 1st, 2008||Winter enrollment details added.|
|December 15th, 2008||Winter signature requirement removed.|
|December 17th, 2008||Winter enrollment details adjusted to emphasize removed signature requirement.|
|April 7th, 2009||Minor revision to description.|