Skip to main content

Unit information: Illness Narratives in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

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. Rose
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.

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

1 x 2 hour seminar per week.

Assessment Details

One essay of 2000 words (40%) and one essay of 3000 words (60%). Both summative assignments will assess (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).