The Body: Beauty, Sex and Consumerism

Course Code

CULT 245

Academic Year


What is a "normal" body? What makes a body beautiful or desirable? Newspapers, magazines, TV, movies, and the internet all saturate us with images of perfect bodies, sexy bodies, bodies that sell products-but how have these ideals changed over time? By using the body as text, this course attempts to get under history's skin. Interdisciplinary in approach, we analyze how science, medicine, fashion, and commerce help to invent and cement our perceptions of the body. How are our basic assumptions about sex, gender, race, health, and disability challenged if the "naturalness" of the body itself is questioned? How have technology and consumerism shaped and reshaped traditional notions of the female and male body? Together we will unpack how what we take for granted as "natural" or "common sense" is often not as instinctual, logical, or unbiased as we often credit it to be.