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Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


CS5: The Body

This paper is available for the academic year 2021-22.

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.

The examination paper will have four sections:

  • Mind and Body – comprised of ‘Dreams’ and ‘Hysteria’
  • Illness and Pain – comprised of ‘Violence’ and ‘Contagion’
  • Sexuality and Performance – comprised of ‘Nudity and Costume’ and ‘Queer Bodies’
  • Power and Politics ‘ comprised of ‘The Body Politic’

Each section comprises more specific topics.


The Topics for 2021/22 will be:

- Michaelmas - Nudity and Costume, Queer Bodies, Dreams, Hysteria

- Lent - The Body Politic, Contagion, Violence

Preparatory reading: 
  • Georges Bataille, Eroticism, 2001 (1957)
  • Judith Butler, Bodies that Matter, 1993
  • Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality: an Introduction, 1990 (1976)
  • Sigmund Freud, Three Essays on Sexuality, Pelican Freud, vol. 7
  • 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:  

  • 7 lectures, Mon 10, divided between the Michaelmas and Lent Terms
  • 14 seminars, Weds 4-5, in the Michaelmas and Lent Terms (2 seminars for each of the topics in the 7 sections of the paper). 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. 

Three hour examination.

Optional Dissertation.

Course Contacts: 
Dr Stuart Davis (MT + LT 21)
Prof. Andrew Webber (ET22)