DSCY10140 The Human Body

Academic Year 2022/2023

The Human Body: A multidisciplinary approach to Embodiment

This module is both an exploration and a celebration of the human body from an aesthetic, socio-cultural, technical, archaeological, funeral, digital, philosophical, physical, engineered and neurological perspective.

The module reflects on the changing portrayal of the human body and explores how this knowledge-base might serve to enhance modern appreciations of the human form and ultimately make decision makers and designers, of various backgrounds, more sensitive to the body as an evolving human vehicle navigating through a hypermodern world.

The teaching team comes from seven different Schools and Centres across the university with each contributor offering a unique perspective on the human form, directly related to their current research.

Themes on the body revolve around artistic representation through time, biological make-up, neurobiology and movement, artificial intelligence, robotic engineering, tactile sensing, the need for connectivity, social constructs of gender, mythic origins, archaeological remains, mummification, birth, aging, death and beyond, all complemented by a figurine firing demonstration/session in UCD's Centre for Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture.

The module begins by tracing the treatment and portrayal of the human form from Classical Greece to the Italian Renaissance, through the lens of various social contexts (Amanda Kelly). Katherine O’Donnell will then address pivotal issues relating to sex and gender. Anita Radini will introduce us to the world of mummification. Robin Feeney will deconstruct concepts of race and explore the physical biology of our species. Mark Pickering leads us through a scientific investigation in neurobiology and mobility. Sean Leatherbury continues the socio-aesthetic theme extending it into the world of humanoids and celestial beings. David Cordova Bulens will look at AI, intelligent manipulation and touch. Jess Beck will look at human skeletal remains from archaeological sites to answer questions about what peoples lives were like in the past. This "traditional" lecture content will be complemented by a figurine making and firing session at CEAMC under the expert guidance of Brendan O’Neill.

In addition to delivering her own lectures, module coordinator, Amanda Kelly, will serve as student guide for the entire module, leading discussion groups and fielding questions, as new material is introduced.

In a world where Human Robots, Digital Media and Wearable Tech have become instrumental to human progress and connectivity, understanding the human form has never played such a vital role for the future of our species. And, this module, in blending artistic insight, philosophical reflection, scientific rigour and modern technologies, offers the student an innovative perspective on the study of the human form.

The module assumes no prior knowledge of the subject areas.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module students will be able to:

• Appreciate artistic expression of the human form through time
• Critically analyse significant issues pertaining to the human body from the deep past to the hypermodern era and across geographic space
• Appreciate the physical complexity of the human form
• Better understand the body’s responses to the external world and gain insight into human emotion, vulnerability and resilience
• Consider and contribute to design elements which might enhance human function
• Recognise, appreciate and celebrate the stages of a human body over its lifetime
• Have a heightened awareness of “gender”
• Gain insight into digital media and trends in bodily expression

Indicative Module Content:

A Brief Module Outline :

• Classical archaeologist, Amanda Kelly, will trace the Classical portrayal of the human body from Polykleitos to Bernini. Themes discussed will include mastering perspective, capturing emotion and physical connection, portraying aging and artistic interaction (covering audible, environmental and human agency).
• This artistic theme will be further developed by art historian, Sean Leatherbury, who will explore bodies and bodilessness, looking at representations of disability and illness followed by a study in the portrayal of ethereal beings.
• Bioarchaeologist and human osteologist, Jess Beck, will look at human skeletal remains from archaeological sites to answer questions about what peoples lives were like in the past.
• Anita Radini will explore the mummified body looking at mummification through time, from science to culture. She will be bringing us around the world in 8 mummies.
• David Cordova Bulens will provide an engineer’s perspective on human movement. He will look at human tactile physiology, drawing on his work on the replication of human touch. Stephen will outline modern advances in AI focusing on imagined movement/rehearsal to enable more intelligent dexterous manipulation.
• Neurobiologist, Mark Pickering, will explore how the body is represented in the brain. Mark will explain how the brain creates a model of the body relative to the world around it, and how the brain controls how the body interacts with its environment (constituting explorations on sensory perception and motor control).
• Katherine O’Donnell will investigate mythical foundation stories that explain how human bodies came into being. Katherine will also explore concepts of ‘Sex’ and ‘Gender’ and provide an overview of the changing feminist theorisations of the concept ‘gender’ including debates between ‘essentialists’ and ‘social constructionists’.
• Biological Anthropologist Robin Feeney (specialised in Forensic Anthropology) will present a scientific examination of the bio-cultural evolution and variation in the human bone and dental record as a means to understand our biological diversity as a species.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
The blended approach championed by this module presents an innovate and pioneering forum for student engagement which aims to be thought-provoking and academically vibrant.

Assessment is designed to promote engagement with the material, leading to solution-focused groupwork and independent student expression.

The module’s themes dovetail with studies in material culture, artistic expression and/or any scientific discipline where in-depth knowledge of the human form is fundamental to wellness, healing and progress. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Assignment: Final group poster/video presentation Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No


Multiple Choice Questionnaire: A short MCQ on all materials presented in lectures Varies over the Trimester n/a Alternative linear conversion grade scale 40% No


Multiple Choice Questionnaire: A short MCQ on all materials presented in lectures. Varies over the Trimester n/a Alternative linear conversion grade scale 40% No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment
• Online automated feedback

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Not yet recorded.

Name Role
Dr David Cordova Bulens Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Robin Feeney Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Sean Leatherbury Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Professor Katherine O'Donnell Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Brendan O'Neill Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Mark Pickering Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Anita Radini Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 Thurs 13:00 - 13:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 Tues 13:00 - 13:50