This essay examines the images and looking practices central to Bess M. Mensendieck's (c.1866-1959) 'functional exercise' system, as documented in physical culture treatises published in Germany and the United States between 1906 and 1937. Believing that muscular realignment could not occur without seeing how the body worked, Mensendieck taught adult non-athletes to see skeletal alignment and muscular movement in their own and others' bodies. Three levels of looking practices are examined: didactic sequences; penetrating inspection and appreciation of physiological structures; and ideokinetic visual metaphors for guiding movement. With these techniques, Mensendieck's work bridged the body cultures of German Nacktkultur (nudism), American labour efficiency and the emerging physical education profession. This case study demonstrates how sport historians could expand their analyses to include practices of looking as well as questions of visual representation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)