Tuesday, April 04, 2006

My body class - more brainstorming

A while back now, I posted about an opportunity to teach a class for a special interdisciplinary thing, and we brainstormed a bit. Thanks again for the great help you all gave me.

I ordered a couple books to check out, and because, you know, books! Then, I put things off to teach and grade and whine about the cold. Then book orders came due, but I ignored them, because really, who can think that far ahead? So I put things aside. Then a few weeks ago, some of the interdisciplinary students sent me an email about a presentation thing for professors to come tell the students about classes next year. I said I'd come, and then, predictably, left things in the backroads of my mind.

But, today's the day, it turns out, and bright and early. So over dinner last night with one of my teammates, I hashed over what I'm thinking, and I thought I'd share it with you all. Once again, please feel free to make suggestions, including suggestions for reorganizations and cuts.

I'm thinking of the course in three sections, not really equal, and I'll probably have to pare things down some (okay, a lot), but here's some basic idea.

Section 1: Making bodies, making sex/gender

Readings: some Laquer (and yes, EEBO makes looking at some of the older texts directly a really good idea!), Butler, Middlesex (which my teammate RAVED about tonight; thanks, TBTAM!). Probably I'll also get in an early modern medical text or two, because who can resist cooking theories? (There are some suggestions I haven't finished looking up, like Kermit's subjection suggestion) Maybe part of Iris Marion Young's "On Female Body Experience: Throwing Like a Girl and Other Essays." (Thanks, AW!)

Section 2: Bodies/parts - this part's the center of the course, and probably too big

Readings: Scarey, The Body in Pain, some Bakhtin on the grotesque and classical bodies (ooo, and pictures of sculptures!), maybe some Carolyn Walker Bynum and medieval pictures, and the responses Dr. Virago suggested, Titus Andronicus (okay, I should also do some old mythology, after all, who can resist when someone bakes kids in a pasty!), Frankenstein, and Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl, which is an amazing hypertext rethinking of Frankenstein AND L Frank Baum's The Patchwork Girl (if you don't know that, you know Baum's more famous work, The Wizard of Oz). Maybe a bit of Foucault's "good old days" about breaking people on the wheel and drawings and quarterings. Probably some media stuff on the US military use of torture and such, and ethics. (Suggestions, folks?) (okay, I really can't fit all this in, but I'm still brainstorming)

Section 3: Dispositions (because, really, I'm love fake etymologies and wordplay; I've been reading too much Derrida lately)

Readings: Roach's Stiff, or maybe another book someone suggested that I still have to get hold of, then some ethics readings a philosophy prof shared (but which I stupidly left at the office). One of my departmental colleagues (oddly enough) has been doing some research with a medical group, and one of the members of the group has an interest in medical ethics, and may be willing to talk to the class about such things. So that would be cool, eh? And I'm thinking Haraway's "Cyborg Manifesto" will fit in here (have I mentioned I'm a cyborg? Always freaks my students the heck out.)

The brainstorming so far is huge, and I'm leaving SO MUCH OUT! But I can't fit everything in, so better to fit in what I can, and then put in to teach it again and do a new morph next time, with different foci.

Addendum: The presentation thing went fairly well; another instructor there is doing a course similar to mine on corpses and such. I have no idea why they put both courses in the same semester, but there it goes.

I may cut out the corpse part of mine, but he's not thinking of the kinds of corpse issues I am, really (except now he's talking about using Stiff).

And as I was sitting there, I realized that the Diary of Lady Anne Clifford, the section where she's dragging around her Mom's body in the lead lined casket, would be really great. So I guess I'm still adding stuff. /sigh


  1. Sounds like a fantastic class, and one I'd love to take. Coincidentally, I did a quick run through of humoral theory in class today and was reminded again of how much students like the particular weirdness of that kind of conception of the body.

    Not that you need any more material, but "Revenger's Tragedy" would fit right in, what with Vindice toting Gloriana's skull around and his speeches re-situating medieval rotting-corpse/beautiful-body dichotomies.

    (P.S. I've really been enjoying your blog since discovering it recently!)

  2. Your class sounds like it will be a hit! As the previous commenter says, though you may not need *more* texts, I can't help suggesting Dante's Inferno (perhaps, dare I propose it, excerpted?) for the middle section of the course. And for some reason, Benjamin's Trauerspiel keeps coming to mind as I read through your ideas for the disintegration of allegory and fragmentation of discourse resonances. But it could just be my Benjamin obsession acting up again...

  3. This class looks great - you're going to have a tough time narrowing things down, but I love the way you've split the class up into sections! I'm teaching my body class next year (I got some great feedback that I'd be happy to share!) and I'm ashamed to say that I never thought of Bhaktin...Laustic also mentioned this book, which sounded cool: Robert Mills's _Suspended Animation: Pain, Pleasure & Punishment in Medieval Culture_ - it's period-specific, but it might be interesting!

    Please keep me/us updated - it's very interesting and helpful (hope you don't mind if I take a few pages out of your book!)...

  4. Hi, I just came across your blog thanks to the excellent Really Dead Women Writers post. I don't get to teach courses on the body (curse these disciplines!) though I have been doing a bit with it in my research and writing. Can I make two modest suggestions, coming from rather different theoretical perspectives than what you've already covered? As a nice corrective to Foucault, I really liked Silvia Federici's Caliban and the Witch. Federici looks at the witch hunts as a moment of primitive accumulation; moving stuff. A bit more theoretical and less historical is a book I really love: David McNally's Bodies of Meaning. McNally sides with Bahktin and Voloshinov against Saussure's theory of language, and uses this as a basis for critiquing Derrida and others.

    Would you consider posting your course reading list on your blog when it's ready?