Bodyscapes in American Culture MA Seminar

Course information


Bodyscapes in American Culture


Cristian Réka Mónika

Course code





2019 tavasz

Course description

short description

The body has been the principal subject in Western art since the Renaissance, and it is the locus and metaphor for understanding and exploring texts in the social, economic, cultural and political arena in which they exist. The focus of the seminar will be directed within the interdisciplinary academic-theoretical, popular, and political site that the human body entails (including its stages that envisage the body battle, blindness and insight, the body politic and after, restoring art, from Madonna to the harem, photographic art/s, visual arts, race and modern art, texts and bodies, the body and the artistic genre/s, etc.). The course offers theoretical background for the students working in the field of body-representations, of gender, of post-colonial contexts and of literary interpretation of the human body as complex phenomena. Students are encouraged to bring examples from their own research projects both in their required course presentation and in their written assignments.


  1. week: Introduction. The concept of the body, the cultural context

2‒3. weeks. Approaches to visual culture.

  1. N. Mirzoeff “What is Visual Culture” (The Visual Culture Reader)
  2. Irit Rogoff “Studying Visual Culture,” (The Visual Culture Reader)
  3. Ella Shohat and Robert Stam “Narrativizing Visual Culture. Towards a Polycentric Narrative” (The Visual Culture Reader)

d) The ideal body, the signifying function, the contextualization, the body battle. Body fragments vs. universal forms (Bodyscape 1-32).

4. week. The canon of blindness. Blindness and insight. The Visible and the invisible; Painting and sculpture. A a) Origins, trends, schools (Bodyscape 32-57)

5. week. The body politic and after. Revolutions and shapes. (Bodyscape 59-97)

6 – 7. weeks. The representation of the feminine.

a) Like a virgin: from Madonna to the harem. The oriental and the woman. (Bodyscape 98-134)

b) Malek Alloula “From The Colonial Harem” (The Visual Culture Reader)

c) Lynda Nead “From The Female Nude. Art, Obscenity and Sexuality” (The Visual Culture Reader)

8 ‒ 9. weeks. Gendering and queering the visual.

  1. N. Mirzoeff “Introduction to Part Five” (The Visual Culture Reader)
  2. Judith Butler “Gender Is Burning: Questions of Appropriation and Subversion” (The Visual Culture Reader)

c) Anthea Callen “Ideal Masculinities: An Anatomy of Power” (The Visual Culture Reader)

d) Thomas Waugh “The Third Body. Patterns in the Construction of the Subject in Gay Narrative Film” (The Visual Culture Reader)

10 – 11. weeks. The racial other and its representation(s). Identity and transculture.

  1. Photography at the heart of darkness. (Bodyscape 135-161)
  2. Painting at the heart of whiteness. J. M Basquiat/New York scene. (Bodyscape 162-190)
  3. Coco Fusco “The Other History of Cultural performance” (The Visual Culture Reader)
  4. Néstor García Canclíni “Remaking Passports. Visual Thought in the Debate on
  5. Multiculturalism” (The Visual Culture Reader)

12 – 13 weeks. The virtual body.

  1. Lisa Cartwright “Science and Cinema” (The Visual Culture Reader)
  2. Susan Bordo “Reading the Slender Body” (The Visual Culture Reader)
  3. Geoffrey Batchen “Spectres of Cyberspace” (The Visual Culture Reader)

14. week. Epilogue.

a) “From Terminator to Witness” (Bodyscape 191-198). Forms and anti-forms, body interfaces and the genres, literature, film, popular culture, media, e-texts, blogs, hyperlinks.

b) Conclusions, roundtable, grading.


Requirements to get the grade

Grading policy: participation, discussion and team-work (20%), student presentation (40%), and one ten-pages-long Style-Sheet-proof take-home paper (20 pages for graduate students) on a topic commonly agreed with the course instructor and submitted by the penultimate week of the term (40%).

Reading list required

Basic course books are: Nicholas Mirzoeff`s Bodyscape. Art. Modernity and the Ideal Figure book (New York: Routledge, 1995) and The Visual Culture Reader, edited by Nicholas Mirzoeff (London and New York: Routledge, 1998).


Suggested further reading: Lynne Cooke and Peter Wollen, Eds. Visual Display: Culture Beyond Appearance (New York: The New Press, 1998); Peter Brooks Body Work. Objects of Desire in Modern Narrative (Harvard UP: Cambridge, 1993T; Laqueur Making Sex. The Body from Greeks to Freud, Harvard UP: Cambridge, 1995, pp 1-62; Peter Brooks Body Work. Objects of Desire in Modern Narrative, Harvard UP: Cambridge, 1993, pp. 1-122, 162-198, 221-288; Jonathan Sawday The Body Emblazoned, Routledge: New York, 1997; L. Frandenburg and C. Freccero Premodern Sexualities, Routledge: New York, 1996, pp.1-99; J. Evans and S. Hall, eds. Visual Culture, Sage, London, 1999, pp. 1-100; Elisabeth Bronfen “From Omphalos to Phallus. Cultural Representations of Femininity and Death” In S. Ledger, J. McDonagh and J. Spencer Political Gender: Texts and Contexts (New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1994).

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Március 15-e alkalmából a Szegedi Tudományegyetem Bölcsészettudományi Karának két professzora (Barna Gábor és Felföldi László) is Magyar Érdemrend Tisztikereszt polgári tagozat kitüntetést vett át.