Mikhail Bakhtin defines the grotesque body as the location of dynamic processes, one that is always “in the act of becoming.” Likewise, the much-cherished idea of self-transformation in the United States has often played out on the body. Improvement and enhancement of the body then becomes an integral part of reaching the individual’s maximum potential. Examining the treatment and depiction of grotesque bodies, both those in the process of “becoming” something better and those deemed grotesque for their uniqueness or abnormality, can therefore tell us much about American cultural values. In this blog we will look at the treatment of “grotesque” bodies in United States history and discuss the ways in which Bakhtin’s theory of the grotesque can be applied to contemporary American popular culture.

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