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Unit information: Literature and Medicine in 2015/16

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Unit name Literature and Medicine
Unit code ENGL39011
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
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

Description including Unit Aims

This unit will explore the interrelation between medicine and 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, medical practice and medical institutions in literary texts; nervous disorders and the novel of sensibility; Shakespeare and medicine; literary constructions of physical and mental illness; and illness as metaphor. Within this context, students will be encouraged to recognize the methodological difficulties of interdisciplinarity as well as its potential advantages.


The unit aims to familiarise students with a range of literary texts, from different genres and historical period, that will be read in relation to medicine, in its various representations.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will have acquired knowledge of:

  1. a range of literary texts, of different genres and from different periods.
  2. a range of critical texts that variously relate literature and medicine
  3. a range of issues raised by the literary representation of illness (physical and mental), medical theory and practice, etc., and historical changes in the understanding of medical conditions and of medicine itself.
  4. Students should have become, through reading, seminar discussion and essay writing, more self-aware and discerningly critical in their responses to literature and to medicine.

Teaching Information

1 x 2-hour seminar per week.

Assessment Information

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

Both summative elements will assess ILOs 1 - 4.

Reading and References

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818)

Thomas de Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium Eater (1821)

John Keats, Poems and Letters

Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886)

George Eliot, Middlemarch (1872)

Samuel Beckett, Endgame (1957) and Happy Days (1961)

Thom Gunn, The Man with Night Sweats (1992) and Boss Cupid (2000)