Media and the Body

Module code: MS3013

Module co-ordinator: Professor Helen Wood

Module Outline

This module examines the ways in which our experiences of bodies (our own and those of others) are mediated by culture and communication. Whilst the body is at one level biologically given, it is also socially inscribed with cultural norms and hierarchies and is therefore highly politicised. As such the Body has become increasingly central to media culture and consumerism and the module focusses upon the numerous sites in which bodies are made spectacular: television, advertising, music videos, the news, gossip blogs and so on.

The module begins by considering key social theories of the body, highlighting most notably the perspectives associated with Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault. These theorists ask us to question how power works through bodies, how we take up invitations to work on our bodies and how our social positions are visible in our bodily dispositions.

Then we will examine how those concepts and theories can be applied 'in practice' by examining a set of case studies from the media. Examples include considering the racialised body in music videos, the classed body in contemporary lifestyle television, the gendered body in cosmetic surgery adverts, the docile body in fitness apps or the cyber-body in science fiction film.

Throughout the module you will be constantly aware of mediated body cultures and will be asked to bring interesting case studies to the classroom. You will be expected to critically analyse both mainstream and alternative body culture practices and representations through group debate and group work.

Topics covered

  • Social theories of the body
  • Distinctions between essentialism and anti-essentialism
  • The terms of ‘embodiment’
  • Ideas of body work and governmentality
  • The relationship between the body and cultural capital
  • The body, race and otherness
  • Gender and bodily performance
  • Disability and representation
  • The body in contemporary class relations
  • Beauty and fitness culture
  • Technology and the future of the body

Learning

  • 12 one-hour lectures
  • 12 one-hour seminars

Assessment

  • Presentation in small groups of two or three (40%)
  • Individual reflection on presentation group work and summary of presentation, 1,000 words (10%)
  • Exam, three hours, three questions (50%)