Gender Studies | Topics in the Study of Gender: Extreme Bodies, identities in transformation
G104 | 12135 | Harrison, Laura


This course will unpack the multiple meanings of “extreme bodies” in
American culture.  The “extreme body” can be understood in many
ways:  as one that undergoes drastic physical change, one that
exists on a polar end of the spectrum from “ideal” to “grotesque,”
one that relies on technology for its malleability.  Students in
this class will learn to read the body as a socially constructed
text, and how this text relies on an understanding of “non-extreme”
bodies or a basis of experience such as mind/body dualism.  This
class will address questions such as:  What intervention has
technology made on the limits of the bodies performance and/or
appearance?  How has the body historically been presented as a
signifier of the self, and how has this changed?  How does this
affect queer bodies and identities?  Has the body always been
malleable, or is this only a product of medical advancements?  Who
can expect to “buy” the perfect body and how does this change body
ideals?  To answer these questions and more, students will explore
the consumerist rhetoric of self-expression as well as the endless
array of postmodern choices that affect how bodies are managed and
judged by themselves and the society in which they live.  Specific
bodies and identities that the class will examine include the queer
body, the cosmetically altered body, the obese body, the
bodybuilder/athlete, and the cyberpunk/aesthetically marked body.