Place is often thought of in physical, geographical terms, but the physical body is a place as well. It is a place you inhabit, and it is a place that is mappable, both in terms of science and geography, and ideologic mapping (e.g. mapping someone’s gender, sexuality, etc.). The physical body is a place that the individual is intimately familiar with, and yet the rest of the world finds it a foreign place. When I first had to learn to self-inject for my Rheumatoid Arthritis, however, I was faced with a sudden othering of the familiar. It’s one thing to have a nurse give you an immunization, but the mental process involved in choosing a place to insert a hypodermic needle makes something you’ve always seen as “you’ into a very uncomfortable other.
The body is often used/defined/mapped as a place in literature, and so exploring the composition of the body is always a useful tool in composition.
- Part 1
Choose a text you’ve read (either in class or an outside text) and consider how bodies are used/defined/mapped as places.
– Are female bodies portrayed differently than male bodies?
– Which (if any) bodies are othered? Why?
– What ideas are mapped onto the body? Why?
If it is helpful, draw yourself a physical map of the body of a character; include such things as other, gender, ideologies, personal conflicts, aspects of self.
- Part 2
Do some research! What are the critics saying about the body? How are they mapping it? Is it different from your map? In what ways?
Choose a critical article, and write one page that compares/contrasts ways of mapping the body or the body as place.
- Part 3
Put it all together!
Using at least two secondary sources and one primary source, write a 3-page paper analyzing the body as a place with a clearly mapped geography. This can be an extension and deepening of the informal compare/contrast paper from step 2, but it should analyze the whys behind the mapping, as well as looking at the reasons for mapping, othering, and using the body as place.
Contributed by Grace McCarthy, 2013
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