• POSTURE PICTURES AND OTHER TORTURES: THE BATTLE TO CONTROL ESTHER GREENWOOD’S BODY

    Author(s):
    Jonathan P. Lewis
    Editor(s):
    Kreg Abshire (see profile)
    Date:
    2016
    Subject(s):
    American cultural studies, American literature after 1800, Gender studies
    Item Type:
    Article
    Tag(s):
    Sylvia Plath
    Permanent URL:
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/M6CZ3246V
    Abstract:
    Beginning in the 1940s and continuing into the 1960s, Dr. William H. Sheldon and his assistants took thousands of what became known as the “Posture Pictures” at the Ivy League, Seven Sister, and other colleges as well as at hospitals, factories, and prisons. Sheldon believed that there were three basic factors in human body types and that any given body could be mapped and charted using a three-digit code he called the “somatype.”[1] In the 1954 Atlas of Men, Sheldon published over one thousand examples of his eighty male somatypes at various ages and stages of life. Atlas of Men is a studbook as Sheldon identifies each somatype with a unique number and corresponding animal totem expressing the subject’s strength, relative intelligence, and virility. Sheldon begins to reveal the depths of the project’s duplicity when he states that “it may be a good thing, on the whole, that courses in somatyping are not yet generally taught in the women’s colleges” (209). While somatyping may not have been taught at the women’s colleges, patriarchal control of women’s bodies, enforced by fears of punishment for deviance from the norm, surely was. And that lesson stuck as evidenced by Sylvia Plath’s description of Posture Pictures in her autobiographical novel The Bell Jar (1963), published some thirteen years after she stood for her own Posture Picture as a new student at Smith College.
    Metadata:
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    11 months ago
    License:
    Attribution-NonCommercial
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