Module and Programme Catalogue

Search site

Find information on

2020/21 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL2284 ExtraOrdinary Bodies: Physical Disability in Contemporary Literature and Film

20 creditsClass Size: 20


Module manager: Dr Clare Barker

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2020/21

Module replaces

ENGL3384 ExtraOrdinary Bodies: Disability, Medicine and Normalcy in Contemporary Literatures

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module explores representations of physical disability in global contemporary fiction and film. We will interrogate the categories we use to define human bodies and identities, asking: What is ‘normal’, and where does it come from? How useful are labels such as ‘disabled’, ‘able-bodied’, ‘abnormal’ and ‘healthy’? What are the connections between medical and experiential understandings of (dis)ability and embodiment? How does literature and film attempt to capture embodied experience, and in what ways does it shape our understanding of the disabled body? We will consider how texts represent the ordinariness of disabled lives and how they frame disabled bodies as extraordinary, different, and exceptional.Over the course of the module we will think about the aesthetics, politics and ethics of disability representation. We will explore: discrimination and stigma; disability rights; genre, form, and particular modes of disability representation, such as constructions of freakery; disability and intersectionality, considering disability in relation to race, gender, sexuality, nationality, and poverty; the value of disabled lives and the ethics of preventing or curing disability. We will compare the different texts, locations and environments in which disabled bodies are produced, categorised and represented, including medical narratives and spaces, postcolonial environments, and globalised popular culture. You will gain a firm grounding in disability theory through weekly secondary reading and throughout the module, you will be encouraged to explore representations of the body in popular media and cultural texts, including news stories, magazine images, music videos, and social media campaigns.


The aim of this module is to introduce students to the field of literary and cultural disability studies through the analysis of contemporary literature and film texts.

The key module objectives are:
• To provide students with a thorough grounding in disability studies, familiarising them with key concepts, theories and texts;
• To develop a critical vocabulary and interpretive framework for the analysis of disability representation in literature and film;
• To introduce students to academic and public debates related to disability;
• To address the connections between disability representations in literature and film and the social, political, and economic contexts of disabled peoples’ lives;
• To support students in applying their knowledge and analysis of disability representation to aspects of news media and popular culture.

Learning outcomes
By the end of the module, students will be able to:
1. Effectively analyse representations of disability in literature, film, and popular culture;
2. Apply relevant theoretical concepts to the study of disability, health, and embodiment;
3. Engage sensitively with the identity politics of disability;
4. Relate various constructions of ‘normal’ and ‘extraordinary’ embodiment to their historical, medical, and cultural contexts;
5. Effectively analyse the aesthetic dimensions of cultural representations of the body;
6. Devise a research project and conduct research independently.

Skills outcomes
Textual analysis; social and cultural critique; ethical awareness; the ability to engage in public debate about disability issues.


At the beginning of the module, students will be introduced to foundational threshold concepts in literary and cultural disability studies, including normalcy and the social model of disability. We will then consider disability aesthetics in more detail, looking at the impact of genre and form on disability representations. The mid-section of the module will focus on intersectional issues, which may include disability in relation to race, gender, poverty, environmental issues, and/or the postcolonial. In the final section of the module we will explore bioethical questions relating to the value of disabled lives.

In most weeks, students will be required to read a primary fictional text or watch a film, read an article of secondary reading, and consider a question relating the week’s topic to contemporary popular media and culture (this is direct preparation for the first assignment, the cultural commentary). Support for the two assessments will be built into lectures and seminars.

Teaching methods

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

Private study

Students will be expected to prepare for most seminars by reading a primary text (or watching a film), reading a piece of secondary reading, engaging with a set of preparation questions provided in advance, and providing a short (one paragraph) response to one question on the discussion board on Minerva. These discussion posts are informal and are not assessed but will form the basis of seminar discussions. Some seminars will focus on introducing key theoretical ideas, so there may be no primary text to read/watch but two or three critical/theoretical articles. When preparing for assessments students will be expected to pursue independent research, drawing on the module reading list. For the first assignment (cultural commentary) students devise their own independent research topic (with support from the tutor); for the essay, they will have the option of choosing an essay question/topic from a list provided or coming up with their own title (again, with guidance).

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Students will be given formative feedback on their ideas in weekly seminars and the discussion board posts also provide weekly opportunities for verbal feedback from the tutor and peers (we will draw on students’ posts in seminars and discuss their ideas, including ways of developing them). Students will receive written feedback on their assessments and will also have one-to-one meetings with the tutor when essays are returned. The tutor’s consultation hour is a regular opportunity for students to receive additional informal and formative feedback.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay2500 Words66.70
Written Work1500 word Cultural Commentary33.30
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

The cultural commentary relates the module’s ideas and theoretical frameworks to an element of contemporary culture that particularly interests the student. It is designed to encourage students to apply critical and theoretical ideas outside the seminar room and the academic essay, and to reflect upon the connections between the literature they read and the world they live in. It consists of a close reading of an aspect of contemporary culture of the student’s choice (which could be e.g. an advertising campaign, a magazine article, a Youtube video, a TED talk, a music video, a social media thread), applying some relevant theoretical material from the module or beyond (e.g. secondary reading on normalcy, on disability, on medicine, etc). Students will be offered detailed advice on this assessment in one of the lectures, written instructions available on Minerva at the start of the module, and one-to-one opportunities to discuss their ideas for the commentary.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 05/02/2021 10:23:39


Browse Other Catalogues

Errors, omissions, failed links etc should be notified to the Catalogue Team.PROD

© Copyright Leeds 2019