skip to content


Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


CS5: The Body

This paper is available for the academic year 2022-23.

The Body paper is comparative in terms of both language areas and media covered (while its core is literary, it also incorporates other types of text, visual art, and film). It aims to explore, by way of diverse theoretical and interpretative approaches, the way in which bodies and embodiment are presented in these diverse media and the stakes or wider implications of this presentation. The time-span of the paper runs from the 18th century to the present day, and a wide variety of approaches is implied. Student must be able to work in three languages (one of which can be English, or another language in English translation). This also applies to optional dissertations. Students on the History and Modern Languages Tripos taking this paper will need to show knowledge of three language areas, one relating to their chosen Tripos language. For HML students the other two languages may either be foreign languages, both engaged with through translation, or English and one other language engaged with through translation.


A reformed version of the paper will be offered from 2022-23. Its core aims remain the same as before and students are still required to work across three language areas, as detailed above. However there will be a simplified topic structure with the 6 topics listed below offered.




The Topics from 2022-23 onwards, with example areas of enquiry, are:

The Queer Body - non-heteronormative sexualities historical and contemporary; the trans* body 

The (Un)Clothed Body - nudity and nakedness; the role of clothing, costume and drag

The Body and Contagion - the role of affect; discourses and narratives of plague, illness and pain

The Body and Trauma - violence and power structures; representation of individual trauma - physical and psychical

Bodies, Race and Identity - mobility, communities and legacies of slavery/oppression; biopolitics and structures of power

The Dis/En-abled Body - ableism and physical difference; cyborgs and prosthetics




Preparatory reading: 
  • Judith Butler, Bodies that Matter 1993
  • Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality: an Introduction, 1990 (1976)
  • Sean Sweeney and Ian Hodder (eds) The Body 2002
  • Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain, 1985
  • Susan Suleiman (ed.), The Female Body in Western Culture, 1986



Teaching and learning: 

The provision of teaching for The Body consists of:  

  • 10 lectures, Mon 10, divided between the Michaelmas and Lent Terms
  • 12 seminars, Weds 4-5, in the Michaelmas and Lent Terms (2 seminars for each of the topics). In the first of each set of seminars, either one topic convenor or both will present a paper relating to the topic. In the second seminar of each set, short papers will be given by students, relating to material in the language areas in which they specialize. All students will be expected to give at least one presentation during the year. In each case, the lecture will precede the seminars. Supervision will be arranged by the convenors of the modules, and students can expect to have 6-8 supervisions in the course of the year. 

There will be three introductory lectures, followed by the six topics. Each topic will be taught in line with the model explained above, with 1 lecture and 2 seminars per topic. Students are expected to organise 6-8 supervisions during the year, ranging across their chosen topics.


Three hour examination.

Optional Dissertation.

Course Contacts: 
Dr Stuart Davis