Spring 2023

"The Embodied Self" in American Culture and Society

Listed in: American Studies, as AMST-115  |  Anthropology and Sociology, as SOCI-215


Wendy H. Bergoffen (Section 01)
Francis G. Couvares (Section 02)


(Offered as AMST 115 and SOCI 215) The course is an interdisciplinary, historically organized study of American perceptions of and attitudes towards the human body in a variety of media, ranging from medical and legal documents to poetry and novels, the visual arts, film, and dance. Among the topics to be discussed are the physical performance of gender; the social construction of the ideal male and female body; health reform movements; athletic achievement as an instrumentalization of the body; commercialization of physical beauty in the fitness and fashion industries; eating disorders as cultural phenomena; the interminable abortion controversy; the equally interminable conflict over pornography and the limits of free speech; and adaptations to the possibility of serious illness and to the certainty of death. 

Limited to 18 students per section. Spring semester. Professor Couvares and Senior Lecturer Bergoffen.

How to handle overenrollment: Preference will be given, in descending orders, to preregistered juniors & senior Anthropology or American Studies majors who attend the first class; other juniors & seniors who attend the first class; first-year & sophomore Anthro or Amer Studies majors.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Emphasis on discussion, reading, written work, critical analysis; exposure to various American Studies readings, ranging from the early 19th century to the present; and the use of various methods, including interpreting historical, sociological and other scholarly work, as well as poems, novels, films, photographs, and paintings (encountered at the Mead Art Museum).

Cost: $50 ?

AMST 115 - LEC

Section 01
M 11:00 AM - 11:50 AM FAYE 117
W 11:00 AM - 11:50 AM FAYE 117
F 11:00 AM - 11:50 AM FAYE 117

Section 02
M 11:00 AM - 11:50 AM CHAP 101
W 11:00 AM - 11:50 AM CHAP 101
F 11:00 AM - 11:50 AM CHAP 101

This is preliminary information about books for this course. Please contact your instructor or the Academic Coordinator for the department, before attempting to purchase these books.

Section(s) ISBN Title Publisher Author(s) Comment Book Store Price
All Awakening Amherst Books TBD
All Dubious Conceptions: The Politics of Teenage Pregnancy Amherst Books TBD
All Everyman Amherst Books TBD
All Fat Shame: Stigma and the Fat body in American Culture Amherst Books TBD
All Leaves of Grass Amherst Books TBD
All Sun Also Rises Amherst Books TBD
All Unbearable Weight Amherst Books TBD
All Yellow Wallpaper Amherst Books TBD
All Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Harvard University Press Jacobs, Harriet Amherst Books TBD

These books are available locally at Amherst Books.


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2023, Spring 2025