Ellie Epp Embodiment Studies web worksite index 

 Awareness theory and practice
 Divided bodies
 Encultured bodies
 Engaged bodies
 Embodied epistemology
 Language and bodies
 Place and embodiment
 Writing bodies
 Theoretical framework
 Institutional design


i was really excited by the embodiment discussion at dinner. i have been grappling for years now with what to call my studies. i usually settle on 'feminist body theory that is also attentive to lived experience,' but that gets a bit long. 'embodiment studies' makes things easier.

- student Amanda St John

In arguing that we have by no means yet explored or understood our biological grounding, the miracle and paradox of the female body and its spiritual and political meanings, I am really asking whether women cannot begin, at last, to think through the body, to connect what has been so cruelly disorganized-our great mental capacities, hardly used; our highly developed tactile sense; our genius for close observation; our complicated, pain-enduring, multipleasured physicality.

-Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born


To be a living bat is to be full of being; being fully a bat is like being fully human, which is also full of being. Bat-being in the first case, human being in the second case maybe; but those are secondary considerations. To be full of being is to live as a body soul. One name for the experience of full being is joy.

- Elizabeth Costello / J.M. Coetzee, Lives of animals


"...embodiment studies is an emphasis on understanding human life as the life of a physical body."

Embodiment Studies in formation

I developed this web worksite while I was teaching at Goddard College during the ten years between 2003 and 2013. I thank Margo MacLeod for her support of its early stages there.

The site is designed to encourage and support projects investigating both the experience and the implications of embodiment.

The site is a loose collection of materials related to this new academic approach. For now it is just a worksite to help in thinking about possibilities.

In the areas of most interest to them individually, faculty and students have contributed book lists, notes, links, conversations, stories, quotations, pictures, and examples of student projects. I welcome more material of any of these kinds.

Study areas listed in the navigation frame on the left link to pages with more detail.

For examples of student work in embodiment studies, see past issues of my semester magazine:

2-2003 - 1-2004 - 2-2004 - 1-2005 - 2-2005 - 1/2-2006 - 1/2-2007 - 1/2-2008

If you think you might like to work in embodiment studies contact me here.

Intentions and motives - Notes from inaugural faculty conversation about embodiment studies, January 2003: Lise Weil, Margo MacLeod, Sara Norton, Karen Campbell, Ellie Epp

M: What are your intentions/motives for wanting this concentration?

E: Philosophical clarity. Wanting to revise dualist manners of speaking.

Love for perception as direct form of knowing, belief in perception/action as cognitive foundation for any kind of knowing, interest in expanding capabilities of perception.

K: Reaction against what cultural studies has done in turning everything into an essentialist/constructionist debate.

Opening things up for queer studies. Broadening a concern for justice.

S: Passionate love of and fear for the earth. Vision of being connected through body. Experience of embodied embrace of earth, travelling with a backpack.

Sense of going forward into a new place. Mystical experience.

L: It is what is missing here and elsewhere, pivotal. Would attract students I want to work with. Students who have worked with body consciousness do the best work.

The sound of the snowmobiles, machines everywhere -- place matters less and less. Relation to mother. Technologies are conspiring with discourses to remove the material foundations of existence.

M: The important things I learn, I learn in a bodily form first, find words for later. Experiential learning.

Very strong sense of what's happening to our ability to move consciousness in and through the body. The route to these understandings partly through dreams, authentic movement, shamanic practices. Allow for a different kind of understanding.

I finally have some thoughts/ questions about the embodiment program... The understanding I have gained is that this will be a program on exploring the body as a mental spiritual physical whole... what it means to be physical in a world that always (some religions) and increasingly (technology) separates these aspects. How our physicality relates to the natural physicality around us (the earth) and how consciousness of place, of bodies in place and 'perception as direct form of knowing' can heal ourselves or be a starting place to help heal others/ earth/ community.

My most immediate thought is of 'body image' or 'women's issues' (eating disorders) which I don't think is the focus here at all, though of course these days is inseparable from any sort of body talk so to speak. How to move past the shallow interpretation and present the program as a social/cultural/historical/scientific whole? (Though of course the list of study areas does this... just sorta pondering here, I think this will be a common first interpretation of the program).

I do think that people my age and younger will be drawn to this sort of study because all the understanding we are offered of the world is from someplace outside of ourselves. (Especially younger generations, the digital kids.) Never encouraged to seek knowledge or understanding from within, or to trust in physical knowing/perceptions. To be able to place myself inside myself and then place that self in my world around... invaluable. Solid. Helpful. Healing.

- student Corin Gintner

These little Limbs,
These Eys and Hands which here I find,
This panting Heart wherwith my Life begins;
Where have ye been? Behind
What Curtain were ye from me hid so long!
Where was, in what Abyss, my new-made Tongue?
When silent I
So many thousand thousand Years
Beneath the Dust did in a Chaos ly,
How could I Smiles, or Tears,
Or Lips, or Hands, or Eys, or Ears perceiv?
Welcom ye Treasures which I now receiv.
I that so long
Was Nothing from Eternity,
Did little think such Joys as Ear and Tongue
To celebrat or see:
Such Sounds to hear, such Hands to feel, such Feet,
Beneath the Skies, on such a Ground to meet.
New burnisht Joys!
Which finest Gold and Pearl excell!
Such sacred Treasures are the Limbs of Boys
In which a Soul doth dwell:
Their organized Joints and azure Veins
More Wealth include than all the World contains.
From Dust I rise
And out of Nothing now awake;
These brighter Regions which salute mine Eys
A Gift from God I take:
The Earth, the Seas, the Light, the lofty Skies,
The Sun and Stars are mine; if these I prize.
A Stranger here,
Strange things doth meet, strange Glory see,
Strange Treasures lodg'd in this fair World appear,
Strange all and New to me:
But that they mine should be who Nothing was,
That Strangest is of all; yet brought to pass.

-- Salutation, Thomas Traherne 1636?­1674