Transforming Bodies and Identities in American Culture

Mark Schuster (Senior Dean of Students)

The American body has been transformed over time physically, socially, culturally, and politically.  This course examines negotiated identities, “covering and passing” bodies through the lens of gender, sexuality, race, socioeconomic class, ability, and more.  Class discussions will be based on cutting-edge and interdisciplinary research, journal articles, and book chapters.  Social media, film, art, music, fashion, and pop culture will be considered to examine sites and spaces of the body.  The evolving and transformed American body will cover the surgically embellished, ambiguous, surveilled, alternative, queer, trans, roided, androgynous, oppressed, and the body as a political statement.  Students will reflect on body fascism, bodies at war, falling bodies (figure skating, gymnastics, high wire and circus acts), smashing bodies (NASCAR), collision sports, injuries, and reassembled bodies (prosthetics).  A critical lens will engage the most recent research redefining the “healthy” body.  The use and impact of American technology, robotics, and fantasy will be examined through examples from Barbie Dolls, action figures, Marvel comics, Comic Con, Trekkies, and vampire slayers, to C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling.

Course Number: 
01:090:101 section 82 index 13041