Oct 09 2009

Of Reading Lists and Why We Make Them…

I began my orals journey with a very specific idea in mind. I wanted to look at the construction of the atmosphere in early American science and literature and present some grand conclusions based on my research. Based on feedback that I’ve gotten from both my advisers, I’ve come to realize that I would benefit from adopting a more open reading list. I can always do, and will always do archival research, but the orals will give me the opportunity to develop a toolkit of critical work that I will always have. And that’s important. So I’m going to resist my stubborn nature and try to expand my horizons. Given this new outlook,  I plan to read the big-guns in the field of Science and Technology Studies (Foucault, Kuhn, Fuller). I will also cover critical work on theories of the senses, which include “skin theory,” theories of vision and the eye, and sound theory. It’s exciting because I’ve just added “skin, “eye,” and “ear” as three new categories to my blog. My blog is mirroring my shifting ideas. It’s evolving with my thoughts and ideas, and not against them. But enough about blogs.

Skin Theory

Right now, I’m most excited about grounding myself in critical discussions about the skin.  The largest organ of the human body, skin, or the integument, is often imagined in terms of boundaries. It is the organ of separation, demarcation, that all important organ that divides and aggregates the internal organs from the external world. I’m interested in exploring how the skin, as membrane, as boundary, connects with my original work on theories of the atmosphere. You just can’t have an atmosphere if you don’t imaginatively conceive of a distinction between inside and outside, between an internal environment and an external world.

I’m noticing that I seem to grativate towards moments these moments of disruption, when the boundedness of the body is disturbed. Is this why Sheppard Lee, a book about body travel, has been on my mind since my time at QC? In any case, Professor Merish recommended I think about the notion of black face and how it allows for an imaginative disruption of the skin’s fixity. Bakhtin’s idea of the grotesque body with engorged body parts that extend into the external environment and disrupt the comfortable distinction between the inside and outside could also be incredibly useful.

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