Skip to main content

Unit information: Illness Narratives in 2020/21

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Illness Narratives
Unit code ENGL30089
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Vaccarella
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit aims to introduce students to illness narratives from a narratological point of view. We will map out controversial narratological concepts (such as unreliability or closure) in a selection of contemporary novels and memoirs focused on bodies and ailments. Our reflections on narratological analysis and on contemporary literature will help us retrace current debates in literary theory. For example, we will discuss whether illness narratives constitute a whole new literary genre – and their relationship with the allegedly new genre of ‘pathography’ – and to what extent they display defining features of postmodern writing.

Students will be given the opportunity to submit a draft or outline of their final, summative essay of up to 1,500 words and to receive feedback on this.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will be able to:

(1) identify and assess key concepts and current debates in the medical humanities;

(2) demonstrate critical awareness of cultural factors in health matters;

(3) demonstrate advanced knowledge of humanistic approaches across disciplines;

(4) demonstrate skills in critical thinking, research, and written presentation, appropriate to level H/6.

Teaching details

Teaching will involve asynchronous and synchronous elements, including group discussion, research and writing activities, and peer dialogue. Students are expected to engage with the reading and participate fully with the weekly tasks and topics. Learning will be further supported through the opportunity for individual consultation.

Assessment Details

  • 1 x 3500 word essay (100%) [ILOs 1-4]

Reading and References

Atwood, Margaret. The Blind Assassin (2000)

Barnes, Julian. Flaubert’s Parrot (1984).

Coetzee, J.M. Slow Man (2005)

Winterson, Jeanette. Written on the Body (1992)

Fludernik, Monika. An introduction to Narratology. London: Routledge (2009).

Prince, Gerald. Narratology: The Form and Function of Narrative. Berlin: Mouton (1982).