Spring 2025

"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 25 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 ?

Course Materials


Other years: Offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2023