Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Opportunity knocks

And this time, she wasn't a bald woman with a little forelock, running by as fast as she could. In fact, she was male, with hair, and not really running by, or even knocking, since my office door was open. In this case, opportunity came in the mien of the departmental chair.

"Bardiac," he asked, leaning against the jamb, "have you ever thought about teaching a special interdisciplinary class?"

I perked; he smiled. Why, yes, I had, but I hadn't thought of writing my own class rubric and getting it all approved and all, and I hadn't really thought so much about the other rubrics, or, to be honest, even looked at them carefully. He offered to send me copies of the rubrics, and then came back to my office as I pulled them up from the email. (There's something a little weird in life when someone comes to read their email to me, you know?)

I read them through, and pondered and mulled. This interdisciplinary thing is more easily said than done, I'm afraid. There's a rubric for an electronic texts course. Now that sounds interesting. I mean, I write a blog and all. And I know from Lanham and such. Old stuff now, though. I kept going. There's a rubric for a course on the body. I like bodies as well as the next person, I suppose. The chair enthuses, and points out that the class hasn't been taught in AGES, since the person who taught it before is long long gone. (Evidently this is something I should have thought of: no stepping on the toes of someone who might have designed this rubric back in the day, or who might want to teach it again someday.)

Evidently the powers that be with regard to these interdisciplinary classes need a couple more offerings. I jotted down some possible texts, because it's all about the texts, right?

The difficulty is that I can come up with a bazillion lit/theory type texts, and now I have to think about that interdisciplinary thing some more.

So far, from the lit world, I'm thinking: Titus, because, really, who doesn't love that play? Or maybe The Rape of Lucrece!!! Frankenstein paired with Patchwork Girl. Elaine Scarry's Body in Pain. Laquer's Making Sex. Butler. Haraway's "Cyborg Manifesto." Maybe some Bakhtin on the classical and grotesque bodies.

I know I can't do everything, of course, and I have the summer to help prep. Wasn't there a Didion book on imagery and Cancer? (I'll have to look.) Is it Meredith Small who's written a book on the anthropology of sex? What about an anthropology of menstruation, which would go well with Bakhtin, anyways, and Titus. Isn't there a great article on the imagery of reproductive biology writing I vaguely remember?

I'm thinking about Bynum and bringing in art and images. Maybe Butler's He, She, It? Mieke Bal's paper on Genesis?

Then, of course, I got thinking about Stiff by Mary Roach, which would be a great book for a class on the body.

Now I'm looking for a sense of an organizational mode, maybe something on legal theories of the body or embodiment? Maybe something scientific, either anthro or evolutionary or??

So, folks, Opportunity has now taken a seat in front of you and would GREATLY appreciate some brainstorming and ideas for both texts and perhaps images or other stuff. She's sitting here, staring at me while I should be working on other stuff.

PS. Yes, I know, this is the very same Bardiac who whined not so long ago about a colleague wanting to teach a big famous text in my field even though she's never actually read said text. Cognitive dissonance, hypocrisy, you name it, I'm an embodiment.


  1. Anonymous7:31 PM

    Didion? Don't know. BUT, there is the Susan Sontag book: Illness as Metaphor....

  2. Oh, as an undergrad I took a terrific class dealing with some of the same questions. I'm not sure if it's quite where you're going, but having to do with the person as (embodied) property, Saidya Hartman's Scenes of Subjection and Patricia Williams' "On Being an Object of Property" (that might be in The Alchemy of Race and Rights, not sure) both deal with legal questions. We also had a class session on statues, includeing a couple of poems (by de Lisle and de Banville) on Venus de Milo, which I'm sure you could get images of.

    Also, Thomas Eakins has some great early photos of the body in motion, the body at rest, etc., combining the emerging technology of photography with evolving anthropological categorizations.

    This sounds fun! Keep us posted on what you decide!

  3. Anonymous4:25 AM

    At first I thought about Agamben and bare life, but that may be too advanced for undergrads, but it does raise the question of biopolitics, so maybe some selections from Foucault's History of Sexuality? Or the open of Discipline and Punish? Or who knows? Isn't there plenty?

    I second the Sadiyaa Hartmann.

  4. I don't remember where, but I recently saw an allusion to Puff Daddy (Diddy?) as "the Jay Gatsby of the hip-hop world..."

  5. Depending on what kind of body discourse you want to go with--subjection, pain and disability, sexuality, there is a lot to draw on in performance theory. I'm thinking of Lynda Hart's work on pain and performance in particular, but I could give you a whole range of things if you were interested.

    You also might want to think about looking at some of the classical texts that Lacquer looks at.

    And finally, since this is interdisciplinary, is there any way you could look to the scientists at your school for medical ethics texts?

  6. If you go the Bynum/devotional bodies route and use art, pair Bynum with Leo Steinberg's The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and Modern Oblivion. The 2nd edition responds to Bynum's review/repsonse to the 1st edition in a chapter cheekily called "Ad Bynum." The whole book is engaging reading, even for undergrads (watch them squirm as they try to talk about Christ having an erection), and the "Ad Bynum" chapter could introduce them to scholarly debate and disagreement. It's kind of interestingly snarky, too. One could sum up that chapter thusly:

    Leo Steinberg said: Christ in art isn't always as feminine as some cultural critics think; indeed, he has a penis and it often matters visually and theologically.

    Bynum's responds: Nope, Christ's a woman. How could you think otherwise?

    Steinberg: Penis. Penis. Penis.

    (Yeah, I know I'm supposed to be avoiding blogs. But I'm also avoiding writing at this moment. OK, back to it.)

  7. Of course, as a gynecologist I have a bias, but here are some wonderful books:

    Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer (Lots comparing humans to animals, fertility and the seasons, pheromones, etc)

    Anita Durmant's The Red Tent (Se my prior post on this one in your menstruation post)

    Middlesex is a great book about an intersex individual, really well written and funny. Medically very correct, uses some great prose in this arena to describe the physiology of intersex.

    The Time Traveler's wife has a lot about the effect of time travel on the body, chromosomal stuff and fertility (None of which is scientifically true, but still a great read)

  8. I just started reading Iris Marion Young's "On Female Body Experience: Throwing Like a Girl and Other Essays" at the suggestion of Really Smart Theory Prof and like it immensely. In addition to the title essay, it contains pieces on menstruation, having breasts, pregnancy, and aging as a woman.

  9. Oh, you guys make me so happy! Thanks for the suggestions! I've got a lot of thinking to do, but I'd love to hear more if you have more to offer.

    I've been thinking a little about disability issues and medical ethics stuff.

    Cats and Dogma, we have a good nursing program, so I might be able to get some suggestions from a faculty member there, or even a guest spot. Great suggestion, thanks!

    (I've been looking at some suggestions Michael Berube's talked about on his blog regarding his disability seminar.)

    I'm also thinking about art, and Orlan and stuff, and maybe body modification.

    And Dr. V, you cracked me up totally. I've been in so many conversations that go just about like that.

    tbtam, wow, thanks for the suggestions. I like the idea of including a more recent novel.

    AA, GREAT idea, thanks. What else is really smart theory prof suggesting? Share, please! (by email if you prefer)

    Kermit, sounds like you had a great class. Any other suggestions I can talk you into sharing?

    Anonymous, thanks, that's probably the book I was vaguely thinking of. I'm 400 years behind in my reading; thanks for helping!

  10. Well, Foucault of course...

    On the lit end, I'd suggest Kafka's In the Penal Colony. Or for that matter Metamorphosis. Maybe Sartre's Nausea? Can't go wrong...