The Body Biography

For your chosen character, your group will be creating a body biography -- a visual and written portrait illustrating several aspects of the character’s life within the literary work.

Obviously, begin by drawing in the outline of the body. I have listed some possibilities for your body biography, but feel free to come up with your own creations. As always, the choices you make should be based on the text; for you will be verbally explaining (and thus, in a sense, defending) them. Above all, your choices should be creative, analytical, and accurate.

After completing this portrait, you will participate in a “showing” in which you will present your “masterpiece” to the class. This “showing” should accomplish the following objectives:

  • Review us on the literary work that involves your character
  • Communicate to us the full essence of your character by emphasizing the traits that make the character unique
  • Promote discussion of your character

Body Biography Requirements

Although I expect your biography to contain additional dimensions, your portrait must contain:

  • A review of the work’s events
  • Visual symbols
  • An original text
  • The five most important quotes (either exposition or dialogue) relating to your character (be sure to attribute correctly and annotate)

Body Biography Suggestions

  1. Placement - Carefully choose the placement of your text and artwork. For example, the area where your character’s heart would be might be appropriate for illustrating the important relationships within his/her life. . The hands might refer to actions or accomplishments of the character
  2. Spine - Actors often discuss a character's “spine.” This is his/her objective within the work. What is the most important goal for your character? What drives his/her thought and actions? The answers to these questions are his/her “spine.” How can you illustrate it?
  3. Virtues and Vices - What are your character's most admirable qualities? His/her worst? How can you make us visualize them?
  4. Color - Colors are often symbolic. What color(s) do you most associate with your character? Why? How can you effectively weave these colors into your presentation?
  5. Symbols - What objects can you associate with your character that illustrate his/her essence? Are their objectives mentioned within the work itself that you could use? If not, choose objects that especially seem to correspond with the character.
  6. Formula Poems - These are fast, but effective “recipes” for producing a text because they are designed to reveal much about a character. See link for suggestions.
  7. Mirror, Mirror - Consider both how your character appears to others on the surface and what you know about the character’s inner self. Do these images clash or correspond? What does this tell you about the character? How can you illustrate this mirror image?
  8. Changes - How has your character changed within the work? Trace these changes within your text and/or artwork.

Adapted from a presentation by Cindy O'Donnell-Allen. To see Student Samples. To see a movie of examples on the short story “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield.

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