Visibility / Hypervisibility / Invisibility: Introduction and Contents
"I believed, and still do, that our bodies are ourselves, that my soul is the voltage conducted through neurons and nerves, and that my spirit is my flesh." --Ta Nehisi Coates , Between the World and Me
"Does something which exists on the edge have no true relevance to the stable center, or does it, by being on the edge, become part of the edge and thus a part of the boundary, the definition which gives the whole its shape?" --Lucy Grealy
"Antonin Artaud wrote on one of his drawings 'never real and always true,' and that is how depression feels. You know that it is not real, that you are someone else, and yet you know that it is absolutely true. It's very confusing." --Andrew Solomon The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
We all want to be seen. Being seen, visible -- in society, relationships, politics -- is a reflection of being accepted/acceptable. Conversely, being or feeling invisible is a reflection of unacceptability. Of course, there's a world of difference between being seen and being watched. Many people live in that between world -- hypervisibility -- especially when their bodies are seen as threats. Invisibility, visibility, and hypervisibility are all experienced on a physical level, as most of the time our bodies are what others see first, the tangible avenues leading to our inner selves. These terms are most often discussed in the context of perceived race/cultural differences, but in this class we will also use them to explore eating disorders, 'disfigurement', mental health, and the ways (both effective and not) in which people attempt to make peace with their own physicality and what's buried beneath.
Bodies: Visibility/Invisibility/Hypervisibility (click the link to access the syllabus in GoogleDocs) begins with a general discussion of what visibility means to each of us as individuals, then as a group in a college environment. Does it usually have positive or negative connotations? What does the physical body have to do with our sense of visibility? We will then consider the intersectionality of visibility, invisibility, and hypervisibility, and their relationship to key concepts central to understanding the body: embodiment, cultural norm, stigma, physical difference, and mind-body dualism. We will also unearth the connections between these unavoidable complexities and the experience and/or perception of race, body image, and mental health.
Required materials include a copy of Lucy Grealy's Autobiography of a Face, and a notebook and pen/pencil. The rest of your required readings/media are available as content links to this page. Check the syllabus for specific due dates/assignment schedule and CANVAS for assignment instructions.