Bodies in Transition
Fullfills diversity (DIV) and Social Sciences (SSc) requirements!
In nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas corpora. ("My mind leads me to speak now of forms changed into new bodies...")
(Ovid, Metamorphoses I, 1f.)
The human body is often understood as a closed and stable entity and therefore largely immutable. However, when we examine how bodies are culturally represented, it becomes clear that writers and artists have long suggested that bodies are porous and in a constant state of change. For the ancient Roman poet Ovid, for instance, bodily transformations became absolutely crucial to his Metamorphoses: characters not only take on the shapes of animals or plants, but some of them also change their genders. Taking the various representations of transformation in the Metamorphoses as our starting point, this course considers works of 20th and 21st-century literature and visual media (film, video, photography) that question the body’s stability and mediate its transformations. We will investigate the politics and ethics of representing and perceiving these changing bodies through topics such as the human / non-human, gender, race and racialization, class, age, and illness. In doing so, we will ask questions such as: What makes a human body “human”? When are body transformations experienced as painful and limiting and when do they facilitate moments of empowerment? How have scholars, writers, and artists envisioned extending the body via technology? How has literature, film, and video art constructed, contested, and reimagined the relationship between drag, gender diversity, and gender transitions? What exactly do we mean when we speak about “passing” bodies? How do experiences of discrimination and violence shape a body and its perceptions?
Primary works by, among others, Franz Kafka, E.T.A Hofmann, Michał Waszyński, Sharon Dodua Otoo, Georg Büchner, Cameron Awkward-Rich, Andrea Lawlor, Meggie Nelson, Yance Ford, Félix González-Torres. Theoretical works discussed in class include Sarah Ahmed, Donna Haraway, Paul B. Preciado, Pierre Bourdieu, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty.