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Unit information: Modernism and the Body in 2016/17

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Unit name Modernism and the Body
Unit code ENGL30034
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Maude
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


In an essay on illness, Virginia Woolf writes of the need in literature to represent such experiences as 'heat and cold, comfort and discomfort, hunger and satisfaction, health and illness', sensations and bodily expressions that are crucial to the everyday. Along with her fellow modernist W. B. Yeats, and like writers from Mann to Beckett and Faulkner, Woolf also wrote astutely about the experience of ageing. These and other authors have all written with profundity and compassion about the many varieties of embodied experience: sex and childbirth, eating and defecation, pleasure and pain, desire and repulsion. Literary texts help us understand the complexities of embodied life, for they tend to deal with the more ambivalent areas of experience where simple definitions break down or prove inadequate. The greatest literary texts seldom propose straightforward answers. Rather, they rather provide us with nuanced representations that question the reductive categorisations that embodiment resists.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have

(1) developed a detailed knowledge and critical understanding of modernist literature on the body;

(2) in-depth understanding of the theoretical contexts that inform thinking about the body;

(3) demonstrated the ability to analyse and evaluate differing critical accounts of the primary literature;

(4) demonstrated the ability to identify and evaluate pertinent evidence in order to develop/illustrate a cogent argument;

(5) strengthened their skills in argumentation and academic writing.

Teaching details

1 x 2-hour seminar per week.

Assessment Details

  • 1 essay of 2,000 words (40%)
  • 1 essay of 3,000 words (60%)

Both summative elements will assess ILOs 1-5.

Reading and References

  • James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)
  • Elizabeth Bowen, To the North (1932)
  • D.H. Lawrence, Sons and Lovers (1913)
  • Wyndham Lewis, Tarr (1918)
  • Katherine Mansfield, Collected Short Stories
  • Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway (1925)