Getting Under the Skin: Body and Media Theory (MIT Press)


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Bringing together an often funny, sometimes touching array of voices, Johns Hopkins University researcher and MIT Press author Bernadette Wegenstein and experimental filmmaker Geoffrey Alan Rhodes join forces to explore the contradictory and at times anxious motives of the producers and consumers of American makeover culture. From their journey emerges a profound question: what have our bodies and our selves become in an age of seemingly limitless transformation?

Made Over in America explores the body in the age of surgically enhanced beauty and reality television.

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Combining the language and style of reality television with experimental film, the documentary weaves together the voices of the producers and consumers, surgeons and their patients, clinical psychologists, media theorists, and the children and young women coming of age in a culture where bodies seem to have no stable edges. Randal Hayworth, who uses the metaphor of Michelangelo carving out the hidden beauty from the marble to describe his instinctual approach to surgery; and maxillo-facial surgeon and beauty expert Dr.

Bernadette Wegenstein was born in Vienna, Austria, of Swiss parents. She has been working on her first independent documentary Made Over in America since in collaboration with experimental filmmaker Geoffrey Alan Rhodes. She raised the financing for the film through research grants as well as private investors.

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Made Over In America. Synopsis Made Over in America explores the body in the age of surgically enhanced beauty and reality television. Geoffrey Alan Rhodes is a researcher and experimental filmmaker based in Toronto, Ontario. To browse Academia. Skip to main content. You're using an out-of-date version of Internet Explorer.

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Fashion Theory, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp. Getting Under the Skin: The Body and Media Theory, proposes a new understanding of the relation between the body and media technologies in the twentieth century. Current discourses about posthumanism, artificial intelligence, and related concepts like cyborg theory tend to diverge radically around the notion of the body as physical and philosophical entity. Others, meanwhile, have expressed profound distrust of the idea that the materiality or integrity of the body can be nullified. Wegenstein forges into this contested terrain in order to determine the whys and wherefores of what she regards as the emergence of a new conception of the body and its discourse, which she describes as having "gotten under the skin" p.

Wegenstein's book traces the history of the body in modernity in support of her thesis that we inhabitants of contemporary culture must both come to grips with the extent to which bodies are now thoroughly mediated, while also refusing to sever the experience of embodiment from what is constitutive of being human. Wegenstein declares this history to be characterized by "a struggle between holism and fragmentation" p. This is confusing because although Wegenstein does occasionally invoke holistic conceptions of the body, her primary focus is on the fragmented body. The result is that the professed struggle between holism and fragmentation seems rather one- sided.

Wegenstein's prioritizing of fragmented conceptions of the body may be intended to offset potential critiques that her insistence upon embodiment is a form of outmoded humanism, or, alternatively, to serve her premise that embodiment remains intact even in those discourses and practices e. The absence of such crucial expository elements is symptomatic of the book as a whole, which lacks a proper introduction and conclusion, and contains only a rudimentary index.

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In lieu of an introduction, Wegenstein's two-page preface is augmented by an eight-page foreword by Mark Hanson, Dean of the Social Sciences at the University of Chicago, but its intended purpose as apologia and contextual background backfires since it actually highlights the deficiencies of Wegenstein's own methods and argumentation. Given this lack of clear articulation at the outset, the reader is left to glean Wegenstein's meaning from the four following chapters.


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  • The first is a historical overview of discourses of the body from the sixteenth century to the present in philosophy, psychoanalysis, feminism, pheno- menology, posthumanism, and so on. Wegenstein demonstrates that these discourses have oscillated between views of the body as fragmented or holistic, but her point that they ultimately reveal the "body as mediation" can only be vaguely grasped because she never explicitly states what this means.

    Is it coherence between the inside and outside of the body, interaction between the body and objects or other people, or the penetration of the body by medical technologies.

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    That said, the main argument of this chapter—that artists since the s have moved progressively from an engagement with the body as material flesh to an emphasis on its integration with media technologies—relies upon a repression of the fact that artists in the s and s used mediated forms e. Wegenstein's presentation of this history as a teleological transition from corporeality to hypermediation serves to harness these art practices to illustrate her overarching thesis at the expense of flattening out the socio-cultural and historical nuances of such work. The remaining chapters of Wegenstein's book explore how the dis- course and representation of the body have been radically altered in the past two decades by new media technologies.

    The third chapter examines the realms of fashion, advertising, and genetic engineering to propose that the fragmented body-in-pieces has been made obsolete by a "synecdochic move" whereby parts of the body, such as the face, may now stand in for the whole body p.

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    Getting Under the Skin: Body and Media Theory (MIT Press) Getting Under the Skin: Body and Media Theory (MIT Press)
    Getting Under the Skin: Body and Media Theory (MIT Press) Getting Under the Skin: Body and Media Theory (MIT Press)
    Getting Under the Skin: Body and Media Theory (MIT Press) Getting Under the Skin: Body and Media Theory (MIT Press)
    Getting Under the Skin: Body and Media Theory (MIT Press) Getting Under the Skin: Body and Media Theory (MIT Press)
    Getting Under the Skin: Body and Media Theory (MIT Press) Getting Under the Skin: Body and Media Theory (MIT Press)
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    Getting Under the Skin: Body and Media Theory (MIT Press)

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