History | The Body in Early America
J300 | 3886 | Knott


Above class COLL intensive writing section
Above class open to undergraduates only
A portion of the above class reserved for majors

Can only doctors tell us about the body, or do historians have
something to say? Is the body unchanging ‑ a mass of bones, organs,
flesh and hormones encased in skin ‑ or does it have a history? In
recent years, historians have newly explored the history of the body
and used it as a rich way to understand our past. This course
examines the history of the body in America between the sixteenth
and early nineteenth centuries. Topics will include: sexuality and
sexual difference, race and slavery, violence (bare knuckle
fighting, eye gouging, public punishment), manners, adornment and
self-fashioning (fashion, tattoos). We will ask three kinds of
questions: What understandings did Americans have of their bodies
and the bodies of others? What were Americans' different experiences
of their bodies? How do historians use the body as a source?

This is an upper-level intensive writing course. We will spend time
thinking about writing as well as about history. Weekly readings of
up to 130 pages will be a blend of primary sources (produced by
people in the past) and secondary sources (written by historians).
Evaluation will be based on class participation, short papers, and a
research paper of 8-10pp.