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Unit information: Literature and Medicine 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 Literature and Medicine
Unit code ENGLM3022
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Lee
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit will explore the interrelation between medicine in literature across a range of literary genres and historical periods. Topics will include: representations of the body in literature; the complex interaction of literature and psychoanalysis; illness and the nature of artistic experience; the representation of doctors in literary texts; nervous disorders and the novel of sensibility; Shakespeare and medicine; literary constructions of physical and mental illness; and illness as metaphor.

Intended learning outcomes

  • Be familiar with a wide range of literary texts that engage with medicine.
  • Understand several critical approaches that have characterised recent scholarly discussion in the interdisciplinary field of literature and medicine.
  • Be able to construct a reasoned argument supported by appropriate use of evidence and analysis.
  • To understand some of the ways in which illness has been imagined, represented, and theorized in both literary texts and criticism.
  • to understanding of how of ideas about physical and mental illness develop and change over different historical periods.

Teaching details

10 x 2-hour seminar, 1 reading week, 11 Consultation Hours

Assessment Details

1 essay of 4,000 words. Each student will also be required to give a 1000 word presentation in class

Reading and References

  • Howard Brody, Stories of Sickness (rev. 2003)
  • Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor (rev. 1990)
  • Elaine Showalter, The Female Malady: Women, Madness and English Culture, 1830-1980 (1985)
  • Cheryl Mattingly, Healing Dramas and Clinical Plots: The Narrative Structure of * Experience (2003)
  • Virginia Woolf, On Being Ill (1940)
  • George Eliot, Middlemarch