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Module LXE-3102:
Culture and the Body

Module Facts

Run by School of Languages, Literatures, Linguistics and Media

10 Credits or 5 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Eva Bru-Dominguez

Overall aims and purpose

This module deals with the issue of bodies — fat, thin, white, black, living, dead — and takes the body as the site for its exploration of human interaction and identity. Throughout the programme of study, we will explore key theoretical concepts related to gender, race, abjection, class, discipline and animality, and flesh out our theoretical discussions through an examination of corporeality across a range of texts and visual production. The aims of the module are to enable students to engage with the so-called 'natural' body, with the social and cultural construction of the body, bodies in various historical contexts and with the various mechanisms of control and dissensus that materialize in and through bodies. A further aim is to foster students' awareness of the body as a site of social and cultural inscription, and to enable them to explore how ideas about the body have evolved - in both theory and practice - over time.

Course content

Long regarded by the Western intellectual tradition as inferior to the rational mind and threatening to the 'pure' soul, the body has made a comeback in recent critical thinking and artistic practices. In this module, students will have the opportunity to engage with key thinkers from across the fields of cultural studies and critical theory. Through this engagement, students will come to question the body as a 'natural' or merely biological entity as they are introduced to critical accounts of bodies as sites of construction, control, regulation and resistance. Several distinct strands give shape to the module: the interrogation of traditional binaries (such as mind/body, nature/culture, male/female, animal/human); the critique of ahistorical notions of bodies as fixed or given; and the demonstration of how the body is a site of cultural meaning and social control. This critical exploration will take place in tandem with the investigation of representations of the body in textual and visual cultural production. Students will, therefore, be engaged in deploying theory as a means to unpack and enrich their readings of mainstream and artistic representational practices that perform meanings for the body in culture. The module is structured around four key topics chosen each year from amongst a range that may include the following: gendered bodies, cultural bodies, racialized bodies, animal bodies, disciplined bodies, abject bodies and post-human bodies. Each topic will be discussed over the course of two seminar sessions, with the first session taking a theoretical text as its object of study, while the second seminar will treat of representations or cultural productions that relate to the topic. The module is tested via continuous assessment, with two written assignments comprising the elements of its assessment.

Assessment Criteria


D- - D+: In order to merit the award of credit, students should demonstrate a solid comprehension of the position, content and interaction of the works of the theoreticians studied, succeeding in giving a clear analysis of their work. They should also demonstrate an awareness of critical thinking on the topic.


A- - A*: Students attaining the highest grades in this course will have produced convincing readings of both the theories studied and of their relationship as a whole. They will have supplemented set works with the confident use of either additional primary or secondary works. They will have demonstrated a very high level of engagement with the language and ideas of the pieces studied.


C- - B+: Students attaining the higher grades in this course will not only have understood the theories studied in their own right, but will explore their broader interaction in relation to the structures of identity, language and reality, paying close attention to the imagery and content of the works in question.

Learning outcomes

  1. Students will have engaged critically with a range of cultural products from across the visual and plastic arts, performance, dance and literary texts that take the body as their focus.

  2. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the cultural, historical and political contexts that shape how the human body is constructed and/or controlled.

  3. Students will be capable of producing structured and coherent arguments in informal class discussion and in more formal written assignments.

  4. Students will employ the theories surrounding gender, race, culture and society as analytical tools to unpack and enrich their readings of the body and its representations.

  5. Students will engage critically with a range of theories of the body and identity, from across the fields of gender, race and cultural studies.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
ESSAY Essay 100

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study

Each week students will be required to prepare either a critical text or an image prior to the weekly seminar. Their preparation will be assisted by a set of questions to accompany the text/image which will be included in their course workpack (to be handed out in week one of the module). Students will be required to discuss their chosen question for both assessments in weeks 4 and weeks 10 respectively, and to indicate which secondary sources they will use to render their arguments. Private study will therefore be directed to a certain extent by the requirements of the module on a structured and assessment-led basis so that students can organise fruitfully their home study.


A weekly one-hour seminar comprises the contact time of the module's taught programme. During this hour, lecturers will lead the discussion on a text or an image, while students will be expected to contribute orally to class discussion in relation to textual and visual materials they will have prepared at home.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • Extract and synthesise key information from written and/or spoken sources in English / Welsh and/or the target language. (Benchmark statement 5.14)
  • The ability to organise and present ideas within the framework of a structured and reasoned argument in written and/or oral assignments and class discussions. (Benchmark statement 5.14)
  • Critical skills in the close reading, description, reasoning and analysis of primary and secondary sources in the target language and/or English or Welsh (incl. filmic, literary and other sources). (Benchmark statement 5.13, 5.14, 5.15)
  • Competence in the planning and execution of essays, presentations and other written and project work; bibliographic skills, including the accurate citation of sources and consistent use of conventions and appropriate style in the presentation of scholarly work. (Benchmark statement 5.10, 5.14, 5.15)
  • The ability to gather information, analyse, interpret and discuss different viewpoints and to place these in a wider socio-cultural and/or geo-historical and political and/or socio-linguistic context and to revise and re-evaluate judgements in light of those of the course leader, certain individuals or groups studied and/or fellow students. (Benchmark statement 5.13, 5.15 and 5.16)
  • The ability to write and think under pressure and meet deadlines. (Benchmark statement 5.15)
  • The ability to write effective notes and access and manage course materials including electronic resources / information provided on online learning platforms and library resources. (Benchmark statement 5.15, 5.16)
  • The ability to work creatively and flexibly both independently and/or as part of a team. (Benchmark statement 5.15).
  • The ability and willingness to engage with and appreciate other cultures and to articulate to others (in written and verbal form) the contribution that the culture has made at a regional and global level. (Benchmark statement 5.7)
  • The ability to grasp and discuss how films reflect objective or subjective positions in their treatment of their subject matter. (Benchmark statement 5.7 and 5.10)
  • The ability to comprehend, critically engage with and apply relevant theoretical concepts to materials being studied. (Benchmark statement 5.10)
  • The ability to engage in analytical, evaluative and original thinking. (Benchmark statement 5.14)
  • The ability to organise and present ideas and arguments in presentations, classroom discussions and debates. (Benchmark statement 5.14, 5.16)


Resource implications for students

Students will not be expected to buy any materials for this course.

Talis Reading list

Reading list

Bakhtin, Mikhail Rabelais and his World Braidotti, Rosi The post human Butler, Judith Gender Trouble Butler, Judith Bodies that Matter Grosz, Elizabeth Volatile Bodies. Toward a corporeal feminism Kristeva, Julia Powers of Horror Russo, Mary Female Grotesque. Risk, Excess and Modernity Toffoletti, Kim Cyborgs and Barbie dolls. Feminism, popular culture and the post human body

Courses including this module

Optional in courses: