The relationship between language and the body is a perpetual negotiation of power: to what extent are bodies and embodied experience constructed by discursive frameworks, and to what extent is discourse dependent on a body’s ability and willingness to give it material form? When we imagine the body in literature, law, and discourse, what or who do we imagine this body to be? Who determines what the healthy, coherent, or desirable body looks, sounds, speaks, thinks, and acts like, and how does this standard impact the lived experiences of bodies in the world?
This module will critically explore these questions in relation to bodies who have historically been excluded from or disempowered by canonical discourse: the bodies of women and girls; queer and transgender bodies; enslaved and colonised bodies; foreign and immigrant bodies; injured, sick, or disabled bodies; bodies that have undergone sexual violence and trauma; bodies whose existences and experiences are unconceived and unarticulated in medical, historical, theoretical, legal, or political discourse; bodies whose lived experiences are unspoken or unspeakable. Students will engage with a varied range of literary texts, films, and performance artworks in dialogue with theoretical, medical, and historical sources concerned with the body as a discursive construct, a material object, a living organism, a creative resource, and a source of political resistance. You will cultivate a critical understanding of foundational theories of embodiment emerging from European and American scholarship, literature, and art. By the end of the module, you will have gained a transdisciplinary grasp of the philosophical, ethical, and political issues emerging from the study of the body in literature and art from the nineteenth century until the present day. You will gain some essential critical vocabulary to address key questions such as:
How has medical history contributed to the erasing, unwriting, and transfiguring of embodied experience? What are the social, cultural, political, racial, and individual factors that make historical and medical discourses selectively exclusionary? How have writers, artists, and theorists handled the unwriting and systemic abjection of particular bodies? How can art and literature articulate unspoken and unspeakable histories?
The module will engage with fields including (feminist) phenomenology; disability, literary, and performance theory; queer, transgender, and feminist theory; medical history and bioethics; trauma studies; multilingualism, cross-culturalism, and postcoloniality; and memory studies. Students are also strongly encouraged to bring their unique individual interests, backgrounds, and expertise (academic, political, artistic, or other) to cultivate new ways of approaching, understanding, and engaging with the module’s primary texts and key questions.
|A||Autumn Term 2020-21|
The aims of this module are to
After successfully completing this module you should:
|Task||Length||% of module mark|
4500 Word Essay
You will hand in an essay of approximately 2,000 words in Week 6 of the Autumn term. The main purpose of the essay is to ensure that the department can identify those students who may require additional assistance with academic writing skills. Material from the procedural essay may be re-visited in either one of the January essays or the dissertation. It is therefore an early chance to work through material that might be used in assessed work. The title topic of the essay, like the title topic of all assessed work for the degree, is left open to the individual student.
|Task||Length||% of module mark|
4500 Word Essay
Feedback on summative essays is normally available by the end of week 7 of the Spring Term (for Autumn Term modules) and Week 6 of the Summer Term (for Spring Term modules). You are encouraged to discuss their feedback with their MA convenor, module tutor, or supervisor.
Recommended preliminary reading:
Ahmed, Sara. “Introduction: Stranger Fetishism and Post-coloniality,” 1-17. In Strange Encounters: Embodied Others in Post-Coloniality. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2000. Both paper and electronic copies are available through the library catalogue.
Butler, Judith. Preface and Introduction to Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex”, viii-xxx. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 1993, 2011. Both paper and electronic copies are available through the library catalogue.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. The World of Perception. Translated by Oliver Davis. Routledge Classics. London: Routledge, 2008. Available in the library.
Price, Janet and Margrit Shildrick. “Bodies Together: Touch, Ethics and Disability” (62–75) and Miho Iwakuma, “The Body as Embodiment: An Investigation of the Body by Merleau-Ponty” (76-87). In Disability/Postmodernity: Embodying Disability Theory. London and New York: continuum, 2002. Available in the library.