Bernadette Wegenstein

Bernadette Wegenstein is Research Professor in the Department of German and Romance Languages and Literatures at Johns Hopkins University, where she also directs the Center for Advanced Media Studies. The author of Getting Under the Skin: Body and Media Theory (MIT Press, 2006), she is also a documentary filmmaker.

  • The Cosmetic Gaze

    The Cosmetic Gaze

    Body Modification and the Construction of Beauty

    Bernadette Wegenstein

    How the act of looking at our own and others' bodies is informed by the techniques, expectations, and strategies of body modification.

    If the gaze can be understood to mark the disjuncture between how we see ourselves and how we want to be seen by others, the cosmetic gaze—in Bernadette Wegenstein's groundbreaking formulation—is one through which the act of looking at our bodies and those of others is already informed by the techniques, expectations, and strategies (often surgical) of bodily modification. It is, Wegenstein says, also a moralizing gaze, a way of looking at bodies as awaiting both physical and spiritual improvement. In The Cosmetic Gaze, Wegenstein charts this synthesis of outer and inner transformation.

    Wegenstein shows how the cosmetic gaze underlies the “rebirth” celebrated in today's makeover culture and how it builds upon a body concept that has collapsed into its mediality. In today's beauty discourse—on reality TV and Web sites that collect “bad plastic surgery”—we yearn to experience a bettered self that has been reborn from its own flesh and is now itself, like a digitally remastered character in a classic Hollywood movie, immortal.

    Wegenstein traces the cosmetic gaze from eighteenth-century ideas about physiognomy through television makeover shows and facial-recognition software to cinema—which, like our other screens, never ceases to show us our bodies as they could be, drawing life from the very cosmetic gaze it transmits.

    • Hardcover $34.00 £27.95
    • Paperback $22.00 £16.99
  • Getting Under the Skin

    Getting Under the Skin

    Body and Media Theory

    Bernadette Wegenstein

    Tracing the evolution of contemporary body discourse Getting Under the Skin analyzes the tension between a fragmented and holistic body concept in performance art, popular culture, new media arts, and architecture.

    The body as an object of critical study dominates disciplines across the humanities to such an extent that a new discipline has emerged: body criticism. In Getting Under the Skin, Bernadette Wegenstein traces contemporary body discourse in philosophy and cultural studies to its roots in twentieth-century thought—showing how psychoanalysis, phenomenology, cognitive science, and feminist theory contributed to a new body concept—and studies the millennial body in performance art, popular culture, new media arts, and architecture.

    Wegenstein shows how the concept of bodily fragmentation has been in circulation since the sixteenth century's investigation of anatomy. The history of the body-in-pieces, she argues, is a history of a struggling relationship between two concepts of the body—as fragmented and as holistic. Wegenstein shows that by the twentieth century these two apparently contradictory movements were integrated; both fragmentation and holism, she argues, are indispensable modes of imagining and configuring the body. The history of the body, therefore, is a history of mediation; but it was not until the turn of the twenty-first century and the digital revolution that the body was best able to show its mediality.

    After examining key concepts in body criticism, Wegenstein looks at the body as "raw material" in twentieth-century performance art, medical techniques for visualizing the human body, and strategies in popular culture for "getting under the skin" with images of freely floating body parts. Her analysis of current trends in architecture and new media art demonstrates the deep connection of body criticism to media criticism. In this approach to body criticism, the body no longer stands in for something else—the medium has become the body.

    • Hardcover $40.00 £30.00

Contributor

  • Throughout

    Throughout

    Art and Culture Emerging with Ubiquitous Computing

    Ulrik Ekman

    Leading media scholars consider the social and cultural changes that come with the contemporary development of ubiquitous computing.

    Ubiquitous computing and our cultural life promise to become completely interwoven: technical currents feed into our screen culture of digital television, video, home computers, movies, and high-resolution advertising displays. Technology has become at once larger and smaller, mobile and ambient. In Throughout, leading writers on new media—including Jay David Bolter, Mark Hansen, N. Katherine Hayles, and Lev Manovich—take on the crucial challenges that ubiquitous and pervasive computing pose for cultural theory and criticism.

    The thirty-four contributing researchers consider the visual sense and sensations of living with a ubicomp culture; electronic sounds from the uncanny to the unremarkable; the effects of ubicomp on communication, including mobility, transmateriality, and infinite availability; general trends and concrete specificities of interaction designs; the affectivity in ubicomp experiences, including performances; context awareness; and claims on the “real” in the use of such terms as “augmented reality” and “mixed reality.”

    • Hardcover $19.75 £14.99