Type of Document Dissertation Author Perrine, Jennifer URN etd-04102006-115619 Title The Body Is No Machine Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department English, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title David Kirby Committee Chair Barbara Hamby Committee Member Brenda Cappuccio Committee Member James Kimbrell Committee Member Keywords
- Human Anatomy
- Sexual Life
Date of Defense 2006-03-17 Availability unrestricted AbstractThe poems in the following dissertation are centered on the theme of bodily transformations, from the involuntary changes of illness and aging to the voluntary ones of plastic surgery and gender reassignment. The poems in the dissertation signal the vast breadth of subject matter possible under this loose rubric, as the poems take up, sometimes tangentially and sometimes in a more straightforward manner, the transformations associated with tattooing, drug use, surgery, pregnancy, and even the quotidian acts of eating and sleeping. The poems engage both scientific discourse about the human body and religious and philosophical understandings of what the body is and how it functions, and many of the poems are concerned with the tensions and compatibilities among these ideas and seek to understand the human body as both a cultural and a natural entity.
As the poems wrestle with the concept of the body as a form that is relatively static and yet constantly in flux, a form limited but liberating in its capacity for change, so too do they struggle with the constraints and freedoms of poetic form. The dissertation engages with several traditional poetic forms, particularly the sonnet, sometimes accepting the rigid definition that such forms can provide, and at other times mutating the forms to question the extent to which a form can be altered while remaining discernibly a part of a particular poetic tradition. Other poems in the dissertation take their formal cues from the human body itself, reacting to physical features and biological processes, in order to both contemplate and complicate the relationship between corporeal and poetic form.
The poems in this dissertation are bound together by these thematic and formal concerns, as well as by a consideration of the language with which the human body has already been codified, not only in literary works, but also in scientific and theological discourse. While many of the poems appropriate language from these fields in their elaboration of the body, they also seek to transform much of the terminology they acquire and to interrogate the ways in which ways of naming the body and its various aspects influence both what the body is and how we perceive it.
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