ENGL1902 Reading Bodies

6 points
Not available in 2020UWA (Perth)Face to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 1 option in the English and Literary Studies; Humanities in Health and Medicine; Gender Studies major sequences
  • The area of knowledge for this unit are Life and Health Sciences, Society and Culture
  • Category B broadening unit for students
  • Level 1 elective
The ways in which we understand 'the body' has profound implications for how we live and work as gendered, sexed, and raced subjects. This cultural studies unit investigates the way bodies can be 'read' over time and place, through medical, scientific, legal, literary and philosophical discourses, paying particular attention to the sexed body. It is interested in the way bodies are constructed through narrative tropes and conventions from the past, the present, and the future. Students think about the ways in which power relations are inscribed on bodies through bodily regimes to do with hair, muscularity, fertility and virility; how the value and vulnerability of bodily experiences like adolescence or breastfeeding or ageing are socially constructed, and how practices like circumcision, IVF or gender transitioning are complicated by the regulation of gender, sexuality, race and class. Ideas of power and performance as culturally and historically specific are useful in accounting for unpredictable bodies (like intersex babies), and the future of bodies in virtual reality and cyborg culture are investigated. The unit applies critical thinking from cultural studies and social theory to literary texts, contemporary print, art, and digital media, and everyday practices, to trace ideas of nature and culture, personal and political, individual and social as they converge around the body and the way we live. It makes for an absorbing broadening unit for anyone with a body.
Students are able to (1) articulate an historical and political cultural context for current understandings of the body and its relation to gender identity in contemporary Western culture; (2) demonstrate an understanding of the ways race, class, gender and sexuality are inscribed on the body as a set of power relations; (3) analyse literary texts, visual media, events or everyday practices for their representation of particular and imagined bodies; (4) be familiar with a range of theories about subjectivity and social power and the ways they can be applied to the representation and experience of particular bodies; (5) confidently employ a critical vocabulary of pivotal terms and concepts; and (6) undertake independent research, express research findings and ideas coherently and convincingly in appropriate written and oral forms.
Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) tutorial participation; (2) written assessment; and (3) an examination. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Supplementary assessment is not available in this unit except in the case of a bachelor's pass degree student who has obtained a mark of 45 to 49 overall and is currently enrolled in this unit, and it is the only remaining unit that the student must pass in order to complete their course.
Unit Coordinator(s)
Associate Professor Alison Bartlett
Unit rules
GEND1902 Reading Bodies
Contact hours
2–3 hours per week
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Books and other material wherever listed may be subject to change. Book lists relating to 'Preliminary reading', 'Recommended reading' and 'Textbooks' are, in most cases, available via the Booktopia Textbook Finder, which has the functionality to search by course code, course, ISBN and title, and may also be posted or available at the appropriate school's administrative offices. Where texts are listed in the unit description above, an asterisk (*) indicates that the book is available in paperback.