The Body: Aesthetics, Culture and Politics in the 20th Century
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Level: Undergraduate
Division: The New School for Public Engagement
School: Bachelor's Program for Adults and Transfer Students
Department: Humanities
Course Number: NHUM 3606
Course Format: Seminar
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
  • Humanities
  • Gender and Sexuality Studies
  • Cultural Studies
"You do not realize how the headlines that make daily history affect the muscles of the human body," the dancer Martha Graham once commented. This course examines the relationship between politics, social tensions, and cultural values and muscles, movement, and skin—a relationship that has made the body one of the most visible signs of 20th-century culture. We study deployments of the body in Europe and the United States, covering the historical and contemporary avant-garde; body culture and life reform movements; war and propaganda; and cabaret, dance, and performance art. How can we "read" the body? How do representations of the body reflect and support prevalent notions of race, gender, and nation? In what ways do images of the body critique and subvert cultural norms? We study literature, history, art, and cultural documents, including articles in the press and political manifestoes; fictional works by Kafka, Apollinaire, Junger, and Carrington; artworks by Hans Bellmer, Frida Kahlo, Cindy Sherman, and Orlan; and theoretical texts by Freud, Foucault, Kracauer, Sontag, and others. We also spend class time viewing paintings, photography, and performance art. This course counts toward the Gender Studies minor.
Course Open to: Degree Students