By Kelsey Siegler
Photo of Pippa Browne’s work by Lam Ho (C’17)
On April 11 in Gailor Auditorium, a lecture occurred on “‘The American Walk’: Global Contact, Gesture, Rhythm, and Poetry,” and “Horror Old and New: Nakata Hideo’s Ringu (1998) between J-Horror and Hibakusha Cinema.” This event, along with other lectures and functions at Sewanee, were a part of the “Why All the Fuss About The Body?” themed week. The conference discussed topics such as the mortal or dead body, disciplining bodies, gender, the body in illness and in health, the performing body, the body as a machine, and radicalized bodies with conversations and panels between students and faculty. All events were free, open to the public, and received support from multiple departments.
The week started off with lectures by two professors from the University of Chicago. The first keynote lecture was made by Dr. Haun Saussy, who specializes in Comparative Literature and East Asian Languages and Civilizations. He gave the “American Walk” lecture about body movements and how science and anthropology help one better understand the body. Saussy referenced 19th century cinema as it showed people how to walk, speak, and act like people around the world, so anyone with access to a theater could perform a different walk. The speaker also referenced how free verse and prose poetry relate to the human body as they translate different traditions across the globe, whether in language or by rhythmic patterns and gestures.
The second speaker was Dr. Olga V. Solovieva, who teaches Comparative Literature. Solovieva spoke about the atom bomb at Hiroshima and how it created a new genre of J-Horror and Hibakusha cinema. She referenced traditional horror ghost stories and cinema, and how both related to the destruction of the human body after it was attacked by the atom bomb. Snapshots of the events were shown with Japanese characters such as “eruption” placed in front of the image, to illustrate that these people were a witness to the crime of the bomb. For example, in the 1952 film, “Child of the Atom Bomb,” a woman named Takako looks back at the moments before the bomb. She stares at the place she last saw her family, and then there are images of white light when the explosion happened. Graphic images of body parts and burned flesh appear so that the viewer sees the effects of an instant death. The film includes imagery of the disintegration of the victims’ faces as they lost an identity from the experience. As a result of this terror, many Japanese people were left devastated, and J-Horror combined cinema with the idea of the vengeful spirit: a woman in a white dress with long, black hair seeking to harm what harmed her. Solovieva explained the effects that a nuclear disaster had on the human body and how generations of people are traumatized. The effects remain intact throughout the horror movie industry today.
The “Fussing About The Body” week allowed for students and faculty to learn about interesting topics related to the body in a discussion setting. Themed weeks like this brings together the Sewanee community in a unique and fascinating way.