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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : English Literature

Postgraduate Course: Illness Narratives through History (PG version) (ENLI11248)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course examines the dynamic relationship between literature and medicine from the early modern period to the present day, giving students the opportunity to consider the ways in which literature and medicine have influenced each other over time. The chronology of the course does not trace a history of medical progress; rather, it follows literature's interruption of and critical reflection on that history. Grotesque bodily humour, mysterious wounds, accounts of trauma, unspeakable pain, and the disruption of mind by illness will offer an alternative, literary perspective on medical history. Students will have the opportunity to place literary texts in their historical context, in order to better understand their reflections on illness, health, and medicine. The course will appeal to students who have a particular interest in the intersections between medicine, science and literature.

Important note re Content

In this course we will be discussing content that may be traumatising to some students. We believe in the importance of engaging with this material and so please rest assured that we will work with you to ensure you can participate fully and demonstrate your achievement of the learning outcomes of the course, without compromising your wellbeing or your academic development. If you have concerns at any point we invite you to approach the course organiser Dr Katherine Inglis ( to discuss how we can best support you in your work on this course. We affirm that you will be treated with dignity and respect in all discussions and at every stage of the course.
Course description This course consolidates students' knowledge of the critical study of English Literature through the close examination of works of drama, poetry, and prose from the early modern period to the present day. The course is designed to expose students to a range of literary forms (essays, short fiction, short lyric, plays, realist fiction, memoir) and to develop modes of analysis appropriate for engaging with each. The set reading list is available on the Resource List for the course. The chronological structure broadly traces the stages of life (from conception to end of life), mapping these onto a chronological survey of major literary periods (early modern to contemporary literature).

The course's historical approach will train students in methods appropriate for analysing texts in their historical contexts, with a particular focus on the relationship between the history of medicine (defined broadly to include health, wellbeing, and illness). The course also introduces students to theories that are of particular importance in the emerging field of the medical humanities, and which offer alternative models for analysing issues raised in their core course texts, such as disability studies, trauma theory, narrative ethics and narratology. The course will introduce students to interdisciplinary scholarship, through critical study of the dynamic relationship between literature and medicine.

Students who are interested in this course might also like to consider Medical Ethics in Literature, which focuses on related issues in twentieth-century to contemporary literature.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 196 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) -Assessment is by a single course essay, the topic of which you devise in consultation with the course organiser. The word length (for taught MSc students) is 4,000 words (see your programme handbook for submission details).«br /»
-You are also required to submit a 1,000 word essay plan one month before your essay deadline. This essay plan will not receive a mark, but will form the basis of written feedback given by the course organiser with a view to helping you prepare for your summative assessment. The plan should include:«br /»
your argument«br /»
why it is significant«br /»
the state of scholarship on your topic«br /»
the nature of your intervention into that scholarship«br /»
your object of inquiry (your texts)«br /»
your methodology, and why this is an appropriate methodology«br /»
if possible, your proposed essay structure
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. understand the ways in which 'illness' has been conceptualised and represented in literary works from the Renaissance to the present day
  2. develop a critical vocabulary for analysing 'illness' in its literary and historical context, drawing upon major critical and theoretical approaches to the study of illness in the literary medical humanities, particularly: close reading, history of medicine, disability studies, medical humanities, and literature and science studies
  3. analyse the relationship between literature and medicine as expressed in texts on the course
  4. demonstrate competency in interdisciplinary research by applying literary critical, historical, and medical humanities approaches in planning and executing research into the representation of ¿illness¿ in texts on the course
  5. articulate (in written form) an informed and critical understanding of the diverse meanings of 'illness' in texts on the course
Reading List
The course reading list is available via LEARN or via the Library's Resource List Service:
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Apply critical analysis, evaluation and synthesis to issues
Develop original and creative responses to problems and issues
Deal with complex issues and make informed judgements in situations in the absence of complete or consistent data/information.
Exercise substantial autonomy and initiative
Keywordsillness,medical humanities,history of medicine,literary form,disability studies,trauma
Course organiserDr Katherine Inglis
Tel: (0131 6)50 3617
Course secretaryMrs Anne Budo
Tel: (0131 6)50 4161
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