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2023/24 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL5664M Medical Humanities: Representing Illness, Disability, and Care

30 creditsClass Size: 9

Module manager: Amelia DeFalco

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

Module replaces

ENGL3398 - Medical Humanities: Representing Illness, Disability, and Care

This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

This module explores the socio-political and cultural meanings of health, illness, disability and care as expressed in visual and literary representation. Through weekly seminar discussion based on medical humanities scholarship, which might include, novels, plays, short stories, comics, and films, we will explore the following questions: • How do we interpret representations of illness, disability, and care in a variety of literary and visual texts? • What is the role of the reader/audience who encounters depictions of illness and disability? • How do experiences of illness, disability, and care affect selfhood? • How do gender, race, and sexuality intersect with illness, disability and care?


Through weekly seminar discussion, the module aims to:
• introduce students to the field of medical humanities.
• explore the socio-political and cultural meanings of ‘health’, ‘illness’, ‘disability’, and ‘care’.
• analyse the role of illness, disability, health and care in contemporary literary and visual representations.
• consider the ways representations of health, illness, disability, and care are in dialogue with critical and cultural discourses around difference (especially gender, race, and sexuality).

Learning outcomes
By the end of the semester, students should:
1. Understand what medical humanities is and why it is relevant to literary and cultural studies.
2. Understand subfields within medical humanities, which may include, narrative medicine, graphic medicine, aging studies, disability studies, and ethics of care philosophy.
3. Have a critical awareness of the social, ethical and political issues pertinent to representations that speak for and about bodies affected by illness, impairment and pain.
4. Be able to effectively analyse a diverse range of contemporary literature and film texts.

Skills outcomes
Masters (Taught), Postgraduate Diploma & Postgraduate Certificate students will have had the opportunity to acquire the following abilities as defined in the modules specified for the programme:
- the skills necessary to undertake a higher research degree and/or for employment in a higher capacity;
- evaluating their own achievement and that of others;
- self direction and effective decision making;
- independent learning and the ability to work in a way which ensures continuing professional development;
- to engage critically in the development of professional/disciplinary boundaries and norms.

Students will also acquire:
- Advanced critical reading skills, particularly in relation to narrative literature and visual culture.
- An ability to transfer these critical reading skills to “everyday” texts encountered outside the classroom.


This module brings a number of disciplines into dialogue, including literary studies, history of medicine, philosophy, aging studies, in order to examine the various ways health, illness, disability and care are constructed, circulated, and interpreted in literature and film. The module interprets “medical” in its broadest sense, incorporating artistic explorations dealing with experiences of doctors and patients, as well as a wide range of healthcare workers, caregivers, and others dealing with the meanings and implications of illness and care. Through weekly discussion we will investigate and theorize the multiple cultural meanings and functions assigned to health and illness by visual and literary representation.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours280.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)300.00

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Weekly contributions to seminar.

Opportunities for peer feedback on ideas

One 1,000-word unassessed piece of preparatory work (due by week 8) for the final assessment (e.g. essay excerpt, annotated bibliography, essay outline, literature review) that will provide an opportunity for formative feedback.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay4000 words100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

The final assignment is 4000 words. Students have the choice of completing a) a research essay b) relevant fieldwork with a critical, reflective account c) a creative writing piece with a critical, reflective account.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 15/08/2023 12:47:52


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