How do we see, understand, and make meaning about our own bodies? In what ways is this connected to how others see us? Is it possible to see our bodies as they actually are, without social influences?
Dr. Kristin Novotny's section of Bodies will focus on the concept of body image and its social, political and personal implications. We'll weave together sociological and historical research about body image with lived experience, popular culture, media analysis and phenomenology. We will also show how race, gender, social class, and sexual orientation influence how bodies are seen.
This course examines what it means to be embodied, what it means to look at our (or other people's) bodies, and what it means to be looked at in turn. We will also trace the connections between body image, identity, oppression, and empowerment.
Some of the terms you can expect to learn and use during the semester include: embodiment, Mind-Body Dualism, social constructionism, cultural norm, stigma, intersectionality, disciplined/docile body, bodily margins, cultural capital, objectification, othering, impression management, losing face, masking, and performativity.
While there are two required texts for this course, you only need to purchase one book.
Farrell, Amy Erdman. Fat Shame: Stigma and the Fat Body in American Culture. New
York: NYU Press, 2011.
You are currently reading the other major course text, Bodies: A Digital Companion—a free, online, interactive resource created by me and other Bodies instructors specifically for use in this class.
Readings and Resources for Week 1: Seeing the Body
This week is an introduction to our class, to the topic of body image, and to Bodies: A Digital Companion. We will spend time on Goffman's groundbreaking discussion of "stigma" as well as the term "embodiment"—two key concepts in COR 240.
1. Why The Body?
Readings and Resources for Week 2: Constructing the Body
It is not inevitable that particular bodies will be found acceptable or idealized while others will be ignored, vilified, or subject to discrimination and violence. This week, we will begin examining how body image is socially constructed using "fatness" as a specific example. We will work on part one of an in-class Canvas assignment.
1. Cultural Norm
2. Social Constructionism
3. Amy Erdman Farrell, Fat Shame chapter 1 (Considering Fat Shame), focusing on p. 1-8.
4. Amy Erdman Farrell, Fat Shame chapter 2: Fat, Modernity, and the Problem of Excess.
5. Taffy Brodesser-Akner, "Losing It in the Anti-Dieting Age"
6. Photo Album for Chapter Two, Fat Shame
Readings and Resources for Week 3: Assessing the Body
Last week, we examined the social construction of fat stigma over time. This week, we continue to see how fat stigma is tied to social narratives of power and success. Pierre Bordieu's account of the various forms of "cultural capital" is helpful in assessing how body image is tied to power/powerlessness. Given the cultural importance of maintaining bodies in particular ways, we will also examine Erving Goffman's strategies of "impression management." We will work on the second part of an in-class Canvas assignment.
1. Amy Erdman Farrell, Fat Shame Chapter 5: Narrating Fat Shame
2. Cultural Capital video
3. Bordieu, "Cultural Capital"
4. “Erving Goffman and the Performed Self” video
5.“Impression Management” video
6. “Self-Presentation Techniques”
7. "Bitchy Resting Face" video
8."The Masks We All Wear" TED Talk
9. Clara Dollar, “My So-Called Instagram Life”
Readings and Resources for Week 4: Consuming the Body
This week, you'll be asked to apply Bordieu's insights about material culture in a real-life setting: a shopping trip. Pay attention to how body image messages are conveyed in consumer society. Your Body Biography is also due.
1. “Material Culture” definition (first of two brief articles)
2. "Material Culture" (short video)
Readings and Resources for Week 5: Objectifying the Body
This week, we'll debrief the shopping trip experience; your Shopping Trip Paper is due. We'll also discuss the concept of the "male gaze," consider whether there is a corresponding "female gaze," and examine what it means to objectify someone.
1. Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”
2. Loreck, “What Does the Male Gaze Mean, and What About a Female Gaze?”
3. Fredrickson and Roberts, "Objectification Theory"
4. Calogero, "Objectification Theory, Self-Objectification, and Body Image"
5. Viktoria Modesta, “Prototype" video
6. Siegel, "The New Politics of Hollywood Sex Scenes in the #MeToo Era"
7. Contreras, "What the White Gaze Taught Me About Beauty" (click on SOURCE FILE to see the article)
Readings and Resources for Week 6: Masking the Body
Do people "mask" their bodies as a response to "the gaze" that we discussed in Week 5? We'll discuss the types of masking and the reasons behind masking, as well as participate in a Neutral Mask workshop to see whether/how our behavior changes while behind a mask. Your Embodiment Topic is also due this week.
1. Grealy, “Mirrorings”
2. Kim, “Mask”
3. "The Masks We Wear" photo essay
4. Connors, "How a Transplanted Face Changed a Young Woman's Life"
Readings and Resources for Week 7: Disciplining the Body
The week begins with Fall Holiday (no class) on Tuesday. Then we'll discuss the Panopticon as a means of and metaphor for constant surveillance, as well as disciplinary power over bodies.
1. “Disciplinary Power: Panopticon"
2. Macat Analysis of Foucault’s Discipline and Punish (video)
3. Foucault, “Docile Bodies" (skim)
4. Photo Album on Disciplined and Docile Bodies
Readings and Resources for Week 8: Violating the Body
The questions of surveillance and disciplined bodies that we raised in Week 7 are prominent again this week, as we examine a portion of Ta-Nehisi (pronounced "Tah-Nuh-Hah-See") Coates' searing book about violence against black bodies. A librarian from MIC will also visit the class to discuss imagery and Information Literacy.
1. Ta-Nehisi Coates reads from Between the World and Me (video)
2. Ta-Nehisi Coates, “A Letter to My Son”
3. New York Times, “Philando Castile, Diamond Reynolds, and a Nightmare Caught on Video"
Readings and Resources for Week 9: Racializing the Body
Historically, bodies of people of color in the U.S. have been equated with "uncivilized bodies." We'll examine that history this week, along with the stereotypes and discrimination that accompany it. We'll also look at the social construction of race using Omi and Winant's important concept of "racial formations."
1. Amy Erdman Farrell, Fat Shame Chapter 3: “Fat and the Un-civilized Body”
2. Can you tell someone's race by looking at them?
3. Omi and Winant, “Racial Formations”
4. Raoul Peck's documentary film about James Baldwin, “I Am Not Your Negro”
5. Hilton Als, "A Young Black Boy Looks at a Photograph of a Young Black Boy"
6. Tressie McMillan Cottom, "I Was Pregnant and in Crisis. All the Doctors and Nurses Saw Was an Incompetent Black Woman"
Readings and Resources for Week 10: Privileging and Oppressing the Body
What does "privilege" and "oppression" look like, and how are they related to bodies? How can multiple oppressions intersect and what are the implications? We'll discuss a famous article in which Peggy McIntosh compares the "invisible" privileges of maleness to the invisible privileges of whiteness. We'll also read an article by Iris Marion Young that delineates five categories of oppression. Your Embodiment Paper is due on Tuesday of this week.
2. McIntosh, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack”
3. Young, “Five Faces of Oppression”
Readings and Resources for Week 11: Gendering the Body
This week, we discuss the gender binary and beyond. The most important contemporary theorist of gender, Judith Butler, posits that gender is "performative" rather than a quality that simply exists. We'll look at her work and discuss the trouble with gender categories.
1. Judith Butler, “Your Behavior Creates Your Gender” (BigThink video clip)
2.“Macat Analysis of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble” video clip
3.“Think Gender is a Performance? You Have Judith Butler to Thank for That”
4. Digital Transgender Archive
Readings and Resources for Week 12: TBD
Readings and Resources for Week 13-14 GROUP PROJECT WORKWEEKS
This week we'll introduce the Group Bodies Project that will be (a) your final major assignment and (b) your exhibit at the Core Convivium. You'll choose groups, brainstorm ideas, work on the project, and upload a proposal to Canvas by the end of class on Thursday.
Readings and Resources for Weeks 15: Exhibiting the Body at the Core Convivium