Communication and Culture | Feminism and Rhetorical Theory
C619 | 1190 | Phaedra Pezzullo


We cannot take for granted that people know what we mean when we talk
about "the body."  For some, the body evokes experiences of illness,
pain, or shame.  For others, the body seduces us to indulge in
fantasies of desire, love, or pleasure.  For most, the body moves us
in different ways depending upon the context and the manner in which
it is presented, challenged, and/or celebrated.  Bodies-our bodies,
the bodies that surround us, the bodies that haunt us, the bodies that
inspire us-are both banal and extraordinary, part of our everyday
lives and part of spectacular events, instrumental and poetic.  Bodies
enable and limit action.  Bodies carry weight.

Conversations about the body seem to warrant an engagement with
specific human bodies and, yet, necessarily exceed bodies.  In other
words, our illnesses, pains, shames, desires, loves, and pleasures all
locate themselves within our bodies-"That tumor"; "Those flushed red
cheeks"; "His smell"; etc.-and outside our bodies-"according to the
medical report"; "induced by glancing at a single snapshot"; "after
hiking through the forest"; etc.  In a dialectic that appears inherent
to the human condition, therefore, bodies act on the world as the
world acts on bodies.  Given the simultaneous ambiguity and necessity
of the body, it is perhaps unsurprising that corporeality-that which
involves bodies, carnal life, and physical matters-is a topic which
continues to gain increased attention throughout the academy after too
many centuries during which academics felt compelled to deride,
ignore, and silence the body.

Grounded in a rhetorical perspective, this course aims to engage an
interdisciplinary range of critical work about corporeality.  Although
we will begin by recalling some of the more powerful legacies about
the body in western culture, we will dedicate most of this graduate
seminar to books on the body chronologically from 1966-2002.  This
time span hopefully enable us to consider both the overall arc of this
growing corpus of research and the specific contexts which provoked
these authors to engage political, cultural, and epistemological
questions regarding corporeality.  Graduate students are encouraged to
share their own relevant research projects and questions in the
seminar classroom in order to further broaden and enrich the substance
and directions of course discussions.

Required readings:

* Mary Douglas (1966)  Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of
Pollution and Taboo
* Frantz Fanon (1967/1991)  Black Skin, White Masks
* Michel Foucault (1977) Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison
* Audre Lorde (1980/1997)  The Cancer Journals: Special Edition
* Elaine Scarry (1985) The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of
the World.
* Trinh T. Minh-ha (1989) Woman, Native, Other: Writing
Postcoloniality and Feminism
* Judith Butler (1990) Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of
Identity
* Donna Haraway (1991) Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of
Nature
* Mary Russo (1994) The Female Grotesque: Risk, Excess, and  Modernity
* Susan Wendell (1996) The Rejected Body: Feminist Philosophical
Reflections on the Disabled Body
* Susan Bordo (2000) The Male Body: A New Look at Men in Public and
Private
* Joanne Meyerowitz (2002) How Sex Changed: A History of
Transsexuality in the United States
* ereserves (including writings by Plato, Decartes, Marx, D.
Conquergood, and L. Williams)