Professor Julia L. Keefer--Fall1996, Spring 1997, Fall 1997

N.B. For those seeking to obtain life experience credit for this course, the requirements are simple: Students submit a CREATIVE portfolio or webfolio showing the unique ways they have brought language and the body together. They can approach it from any discipline. In the past, a U.S. Marshall submitted his personal journal including narratives of the verbal and nonverbal behavior of felons, as well as a lecture/dem on verbal judo; a poet/yoga teacher submitted a webfolio uniting her original poems with drawings of various yoga postures; an au pair woman studying psychology did a nonverbal/verbal case study of her manic depressive charge and devised an innovative system of play therapy to help him; an actress documented her use of sound, movement and nonverbal communication in the creation of specific characters; a businessman studied the nonverbal communication of the Chinese in international business deals during his trip to China. Search this web site for ideas as well as the links to student projects in all disciplines.

(A multi-disciplinary course for creative writing and social/health science majors. Dr. Keefer is a published writer of fiction, a screenwriting consultant, a licensed massage therapist, a certified personal trainer and aerobics instructor, and a practicing kinesiologist.

Language and the Body is divided into two activities: the Keefer BRAINBODY GYMNASIUM and nonverbal/verbal communication techniques and character analysis in plays, screenplays, legal trials and psychophysical therapeutic exchanges.

The first half of the semester consists of physical and mental exercises using all senses and modalities (Keefer brainbody gymnasium) to integrate language and the body, followed by lectures, in-class writing and acting, and discussion on nonverbal communication in the various disciplines. The midterm exam is a 21/2 hour in-class writing exam in the computer lab on communication/character and how it relates to your individual project.

The second half of the semester consists of class presentations where you use language and the body to illustrate the communication/character problems in the discipline of your choice as well as the development of webfolios to be completed the last day of class.

Early in the semester each student has a private conference with the professor to determine the needs, boundaries, and characteristics of her/his project. Thereafter, you will tailor in-class and weekly assignments, the midterm exam and especially the class presentation and webfolio to fulfill the criteria of your particular project.

THE KEEFER BRAINBODY GYMNASIUM consists of mental and physical exercises to develop strength, flexibility, endurance, posture (focus, balance etc.) and coordination (organization, dynamics, versatility, agility, speed etc.) You should come to class in gym clothes prepared to move, but you will also be writing and thinking passionately and furiously as all these categories apply to mental exercises as well. You need not be a superathlete or an aerobics diva to move. You are exploring your mindbody, not competing on ESPN. Although we will be acting out, improvising and creating dramatic, therapeutic and legal scenes, you need not have acting talent. In fact, shyness and embarrassment are fine. Darwin spent pages discussing "blushing" in his book The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals!

Language and the Body

is great for:

Reading Material

There will be weekly reading assignments from the required texts, handouts of dramatic scenes and case studies, and material from the internet. You are expected to add at least 5 more reading items of your choice to help you with your webfolio and class presentation, including a biography for your characte analysis. The biography can help you create a character in fiction or serve as a model for investigation in criminology, disease, politics etc. You pick whatever sources you want for your projects: for example, you can study a particular disease and add medical books and journals; or compare two trials and add historical and legal books; or study the body in cyberspace and submit hypertext; or read books on screenwriting to help you with a dramatic project.

Under Professor Keefer at NYU Bookstore

The Anatomy Coloring Book
BodyMind by Ken Dychtwald
Perfume by Patrick Suskind ( a contemporary thriller about monsters and the body in eighteenth century France)
The Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman
Nonverbal Communication
The Psychology of Language and Communication (a psycho-sociological textbook synthesizing current theories on verbal and nonverbal communication)
Descartes' Error ( a scientific/philosophical book including the latest research on the brain) by Antonio R. Damasio
In this course we will explore the body itself, drawing on the sciences of anatomy, kinesiology and physiology; the state of the body when creating language, (using exercises such as relaxation, breath control, ideokinesis, sense memory, hypnosis, awareness of pain, posture); the way the body reacts with the environment while writing (silence, music, noise, pen, pencil, computer, tape recorder); the ways the body communicates emotions and information without language (in both dramatic and therapeutic scenes); words in the language that refer to the body and bodily functions; the effect of disease, injury, and health on characterisation; and the rhythms of literature based on the biological experiences of birth, death, orgasms, eating and eliminating.

Every 3 hour class will include:

  1. Braingymnasium exercises to develop strength, flexibility, endurance, posture, coordination and relaxation/stress reduction
  2. Improvisation of fictional and therapeutic scenes using Keefer's body parts technique
  3. In-class writing about the body, and with body awareness
  4. Readings of students' scenes, essays, monologues, poems and stories
  5. Scientific presentations about the body from the social and health science majors
  6. Discussion of readings and how they relate to projects
  7. Surfing the net and organization of newsgroups and webfolios.


The most important requirements are attendance and participation in the weekly assignments and readings which are graded Excellent, Satisfactory and Unsatisfactory. You cannot get an A if you miss more than one class; if you miss more than 3, you cannot even get a B. You must complete 4 main projects, (which can be related to the same area of interest), for which you will receive letter grades: