In the Faculty of Arts teaching is organised in two twelve-week teaching blocks.

Teaching Block One

Teaching Block One units
UnitFormatCredit pointsAssessment
Philosophy and History of Medicine (compulsory) Weekly lecture and
Weekly seminar
20 Three-hour end of year exam
Critical Issues (in English Literature)

Weekly seminar

20 2,000 and 4,000 word essays (Critical Issues)
First essays are formative (ie they do not count towards results).

Teaching Block Two

Teaching Block Two units
UnitFormatCredit pointsAssessment
Literature and Medicine (compulsory) Weekly seminar 20 2,000 word short and 4,000 word long essay
Choice of Philosophy of Natural and Social Science or Death, Dying and Disease Weekly lecture and
Weekly seminar
20 PNSS: 3hr end of yr exam
DDD: presentation 20%, essay 40%, exam 40%
Dissertation (compulsory) Self study and supervision 40 6,500-8,000 word essay


Philosophy and History of Medicine

This unit surveys the “making” of modern medicine from the French Revolution to the AIDS pandemic. It explores some of the key epistemological frameworks of our medical world in their socio-historical context. It traces the creation in the nineteenth century of two new medical institutions, hospitals and laboratories, of new medical professionals working in them, and of new causal understandings of disease. Turning to the twentieth century, it then traces the formation of biomedicine and national health care systems, and examines the implications of efforts to standardize medical knowledge and practice through the clinical trial and evidence-based medicine.

Throughout, the unit explores the tensions between the increasing objectification of medicine and the subjective dimensions of doctors’ knowledge and patients’ illness. Addressing the changing relationship between the doctor and patient, science and medicine, and concepts of health and disease, the unit critically assesses the nature and status of disease categories, medical expertise and medical knowledge. This unit is open to medical and philosophy students.

English option one: Critical issues (in English Literature)

This unit introduces students to some central issues and debates in literary criticism and theory. These will be encountered in the context of the study of particular texts, usually a mixture of novels and plays.

By considering these texts in the light of designated topics, students will become acquainted with the guiding ideas (and, to an extent, with the specialized vocabularies) of some of the most influential schools of criticism and theory in the twentieth century, such as feminism, narratology, psychoanalysis, post-colonialism, nationalism, and new-historicism.

The unit comprises a weekly two hour seminar underpinned by a wide range of textual and critical sources and is assessed by two essays of 2,000 and 4,000 words respectively.

Literature and Medicine

This unit will explore the interrelation between medicine and literature across a range of literary genres and historical periods. Drawing on this historical perspective, it will explore the changing literary representations of patients, illness and the medical profession.

Topics will include: the body in literature; the complex interaction of literature and psychoanalysis; illness and the nature of artistic experience; Shakespeare and medicine; literary constructions of physical and mental illness; and illness as metaphor. Open to both English and Medical Students, the unit will expose students to the challenges of interdisciplinarity.

The unit comprises a weekly two hour seminar underpinned by a wide range of textual and critical sources and is assessed by two essays of 2,000 and 4,000 words respectively.

Philosophy option: Philosophy of Natural and Social Science

What kinds of relations exist between theories? Can new theories explain the success of their predecessors? Is science progressing towards unification? What do we mean by the term 'probability'? What is the relationship between confirmation and explanation? Does the successful prediction of a hitherto unforeseen event provide more confirmation than the successful prediction of a well-known one? Can medicine be called a science? What do we mean by 'health' and 'disease'? What is the role and evidential import of randomised controlled trials?

This unit is assessed by an exam at the end of the year.

Philosophy option two: Death, Dying and Disease

This unit will provide a systematic study of key philosophical themes relating to death, dying, and disease. This is an advanced unit, and will require students to engage with the texts and themes at a high level, involving in-depth and sustained critical engagement appropriate to advanced undergraduate work. Key philosophical questions to be studied are:

  1. Is death a harm, and if so, what kind of harm is it?
  2. Should mortality (and our awareness of it) change how we live?
  3. Would immortality be a good thing?
  4. How does bodily vulnerability shape us?

These themes will be studied drawing on a range of philosophical resources, including Epicurus, Thomas Nagel, Bernard Williams, JM Fischer and Martin Heidegger. The unit comprises a 1 hr lecture and a one hour seminar. It is assessed by a presentation (20%), an essay (40%), and an examination (40%).


This dissertation unit, unique to iBAMH, is designed to allow students to demonstrate their ability to integrate their learning from the other units of the programme.

Students write a dissertaton of 6,500 to 8,000 words (including quotations and notes, excluding bibliography) on a subject of their own choice, agreed by the Unit Director and a supervisor from the Departments of English or Philosophy.

The topic of the dissertation must include some aspect of the medical humanities and draw on learning in other units in the programme. Depending on the topic, additional supervision from a clinician may be available.

Students meet regularly with their supervisor(s), prepare plans of work, demonstrate abilities to search and assimilate information from a variety of sources and produce a well reasoned account in clear academic prose.

Topics for dissertations in recent years have included: The Making of Schizophrenia from the Nineteenth Century to the Present Day; Sleeplessness in Medicine and Literature from the Nineteenth Century to the Present Day; Lovesickness in Literature and Biomedicine; The Royal Navy, Cholera and Quarantine in the Nineteenth Century; Death without God in Tennyson’s In Memoriam; Dracula in Literature and Medicine; Hippocrates: Fact or Fiction, Father or Fraud?; Nutrition and the Death Camps; Narrative Competence and its Lessons for the Clinic; The Physical and Metaphysical in Keats; A Discussion of the Importance of Medical Humanities in the Practice of Medicine.

How to apply

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