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2011/12 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL3439 States of Mind: Disability, Cognitive Impairment and Exceptionality in Contemporary Culture

20 creditsClass Size: 40


Module manager: Professor Stuart Murray

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2011/12

This module is not approved as an Elective


On completion of this module, students should be able to:
1. have a greater awareness of the representation of cognitive impairment and disability in contemporary fiction and film.
2. have a wider knowledge of the more general social ideas surrounding disability in the contemporary world.
3. operate as more subtle readers of current disability theory
4. practice more subtle critical reading skills.
5. operate as more sensitive readers of texts generally.
6. re-contextualise their knowledge of various literary genres in the light of the material they have covered.

Learning outcomes
Students will have developed:
- the ability to use written and oral communication effectively;
- the capacity to analyse and critically examine diverse forms of discourse;
- the ability to manage quantities of complex information in a structured and systematic way;
- the capacity for independent thought and judgement;
- critical reasoning;
- research skills, including the retrieval of information, the organisation of material and the evaluation of its importance;
- IT skills;
- efficient time management and organisation skills;
- the ability to learn independently.

Skills outcomes
- Skills for effective communication, oral and written.
- Capacity to analyse and critically examine diverse forms of discourse.
- Ability to acquire quantities of complex information of diverse kinds in a structured and systematic way.
- Capacity for independent thought and judgement.
- Critical reasoning.
- Research skills, including information retrieval skills, the organisation of material, and the evaluation of its importance.
- IT skills.
- Time management and organisational skills.
- Independent learning.


The disabled or exceptional subject is often spoken and written of as being caught in a double bind: supposedly lacking in some essential capacity that denotes humanity, and yet also all too visibly and excessively human by virtue of an inherent difference.

This module will examine a number of novels and films, dating from 1961 to 2003, which represent cognitive impairment as an example of such disability/exceptionality. It will specifically focus on four neurobehavioral conditions - schizophrenia, Tourette's syndrome, aphasia and autism - that have frequently been a source of fascination for both practitioners of art and contemporary culture more widely. In doing so, it will address a number of key issues - technology, individuality, masculinity, sentimentality, genre and narrative form, and a concern to define 'the human' - that recur throughout the presentation of mental impairment.

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours185.00
Total Contact hours15.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

- Teaching will be through weekly seminars (10 x 1 hour) plus up to 5 additional hours (content to be determined by the module tutor).
- The 5 additional hours may include lectures, plenary sessions, film showings, or the return of unassessed/assessed essays.

Private Study: Reading, preparation for essays/seminars.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Monitoring will be through observation in seminar attendance participation, including possible presentations and through the 1st assessed assignment.

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay2,750 words66.70
EssayA cultural commentary, comprised of EITHER a written piece of 1700 words (max) OR a 25 minute viva-style question and answer session, which relates the module’s ideas and theoretical frameworks to an element of contemporary culture that particularly interests you33.30
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 02/03/2012


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