Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: Bodily Possession: The Modern Anatomical Museum in the West
Tuesday, Thursday: 5:00-6:30pm
This course explores the history of the collection, possession, and display of the human body in Western Europe and the United States, from the 1700s to the long 19th century. We will focus on key moments in this history, including the early modern European Wunderkammer, the Age of Discovery’s colonial theft of the living and deceased body of the “indigene,” the rituals of spectacularization to which specific raced or non-normative bodies were subject, and the late 19th century medical teaching museum. Understanding and accounting for this history will enable us to confront the colonial legacies and bodily-debt that inhere in many of our leading academic and research institutions. These institutions have failed to fully acknowledge their complicity in unethical bodily collection practices, but they are now under pressure to responsibly grapple with the collections of human remains that they still maintain, hoard, and house.
Students can expect to engage in a variety of reading, speaking, and writing modalities throughout the course, with careful attention given to methods of visual and object analysis as we explore several different museum and archival collections. From short online posts to longer research papers, students will also be encouraged to develop a process-based writing practice that incorporates opportunities for revision and peer-review, with an emphasis on audience and genre.