The body has been a problem in dominant Western philosophical and religious narratives for millennia. Many feminist theorists agree that the devaluation of the body is intimately related to its frequent association with femininity. In this interdisciplinary course, we examine ways that the body has been read and written in philosophy, theology, history, literature, and feminist theory. We will consider the following questions. How can we account for the longstanding equation between women and the body? What is the relationship between the body and the mind, and what are the implications of how it is conceived? Why are bodies represented in certain ways in literary and philosophical texts? Whose bodies are represented, and how? By what means are bodies shaped and disciplined, internally and externally? How have conceptions of the body changed over time, and how did the body become an object that demands maintenance and work—or, in Joan Jacobs Brumberg’s memorable phrase, a “project”? Finally, how else can the body be read, written, and imagined, and what are the stakes of doing so? Readings will be drawn from Plato, the New Testament, St. Augustine, René Descartes, Susan Bordo, Joan Jacobs Brumberg, Margaret Atwood, Michel Foucault, Hélène Cixous, and Luce Irigaray.
This course is capped at 20.