ENGLI531-19B (HAM)

Special Topic: Literature and the Medicalised Body

30 Points

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Division of Arts Law Psychology & Social Sciences
School of Arts


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Paper Description

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‘Odd to think that the piece of you I know best is already dead. The cells on the surface of your skin are thin and flat without blood-vessels or nerve-endings.’ – Jeanette Winterson, ‘The Cells, Tissues, Systems and Cavities of the Body’.

This paper explores literature’s engagement with the medicalised body and mind, mapping out the arts’ responses to medical advances, beginning with the mid-nineteenth century and ending at the present day. We will study late nineteenth-century reactions to the scare of germs, vaccinations, and nervous disorders, move through the dark period of eugenics in the early twentieth century, and arrive at contemporary engagements with immune diseases and cancer, looking too at current political usages of the medicalised body. Incorporating film, novels, short stories, plays, and poetry, this paper will also draw on philosophical and medical texts to engage with illnesses and disorders in the body, mind, and nation-state.

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Paper Structure

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This paper has one three-hour lecture every Thursday. Attendance is absolutely necessary - as the paper is a postgraduate discursive paper, there will be limited notes to put online.

This paper will start in week three. Please use the first two weeks to begin your reading!

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Learning Outcomes

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Students who successfully complete the course should be able to:

  • Undertake close readings of literary prose
    Linked to the following assessments:
  • Successfully read and comprehend theoretical texts and relate those theories to the literary texts in original ways
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  • Relate medical understandings to the periods in which they happened, and specifically to the literature of that period
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  • Present analyses of literary texts that see them as exemplifying and performing interest and anxieties about illnesses and the body
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  • Understand the ways in which illnesses and the body can be utilised by critical and creative writers as structuring metaphors
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All work must use proper referencing and include a full bibliography of works cited. The English Programme at Waikato prefers students
to use MHRA (footnotes) referencing systems.

A full MHRA style guide can be downloaded for free from the MHRA website (www.mhra.org.uk/Publications/Books/StyleGuide/

The library page also has useful information on MHRA: https://www.waikato.ac.nz/library/study/referencing/styles/mhra

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Assessment Components

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The internal assessment/exam ratio (as stated in the University Calendar) is 100:0. There is no final exam. The final exam makes up 0% of the overall mark.

The internal assessment/exam ratio (as stated in the University Calendar) is 100:0 or 0:0, whichever is more favourable for the student. The final exam makes up either 0% or 0% of the overall mark.

Component DescriptionDue Date TimePercentage of overall markSubmission MethodCompulsory
1. Short Writing Assignments
  • Online: Submit through Moodle
2. Presentation
  • In Class: In Lecture
3. Essay
16 Sep 2019
5:00 PM
  • Online: Submit through Moodle
4. Final Essay
1 Nov 2019
5:00 PM
  • Online: Submit through Moodle
Assessment Total:     100    
Failing to complete a compulsory assessment component of a paper will result in an IC grade
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Required and Recommended Readings

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Required Readings

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Novels and longer works:

Susan Sontag, Illness as metaphor and Aids and its Metaphors (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1978)

Margaret Edson, W;t: A Play (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999)

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

Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (1847)

Bram Stoker, Dracula (1897)

Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway (1925)

Gertrude Stein, Three Lives (1909)

William Faulkner, If I forget Thee, Jerusalem [also published as The Wild Palms] (1939)

Eula Bliss, On Immunity: An Inoculation (London: Fitzcarraldo, 2014).

Shorter fiction and essays:

Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan, ‘What Can Narrative Theory Learn from Illness Narratives?’, Literature and Medicine, 25.2 (2006): 241-254.

Jeanette Winterson, ‘The Cells, Tissues, Systems and Cavities of the Body’, Granta 39 (1992): np.

Peter Conrad, ‘Medicalisation: Context, Characteristics, and Changes’, in The Medicalization of Society: On the Transformation of Human Conditions into Treatable Disorders (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), pp. 3-19.

Ivan Dalley Crozier, ‘The Medical Construction of Homosexuality and its Relation to the Law in Nineteenth Century England’, Medical History, 45 (2001): 61-82.

Elaine Showalter, ‘Victorian Women and Insanity’, in Madhouses, Mad-Doctors, and Madmen: The Social History of Psychiatry in the Victorian Era, ed. Andrew Scull (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1981), pp. 313-336.

Charlotte Gilmore Perkins - ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’, The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories (New York: Dover Publications, 1997), pp. 1-16.

Maren Linett, ‘Blindness and Intimacy in Early Twentieth-Century Literature’, Mosaic, 46.3 (2013): 27-42.

H. G. Wells, ‘The Country of the Blind’, The Country of the Blind and Other Selected Stories (London: Penguin, 2008)

Sherwood Anderson, ‘Hands’, in Winesburg, Ohio (1919; Oxford: Oxford Univrersity Press, 2008)

Marius Turda, ‘The Pathos of Science, 1870-1917’, in Modernism and Eugenics (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), pp. 13-39.

T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land, in Collected Poems 1909-1962 (London: Faber and Faber, 2002), pp. 53-76.

Layne Parish Craig, ‘Introduction: Setting Motherhood Free’, in When Sex Changed: Birth Control Politics and Literature Between the World Wars (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2013), pp. 1-21.

Donna Haraway, ‘The Biopolitics of Postmodern Bodies: Constitutions of Self in Immune System Discourse’, Biopolitics: A Reader, ed. Timothy Campbell and Adam Sitze (Durham NC: Duke University Press, 2013) pp. 274-309.

Emily Martin, ‘Toward an Anthropology of Immunology: The Body as Nation State’, Medical Anthropology Quarterly 4.4 (1990): 410-426.

Ronald Schleifer, ‘The Fact and Experience of Pain: Science and the Humanities’, in Pain and Suffering (New York: Routledge, 2014), pp. 3-21.

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Online Support

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Essays and short stories are available on the Reading Lists page for ENGL531.

The novels need to be purchased. Some are out of copyright and can be read on Project Gutenberg, but students who work from paper copies tend to get higher marks.

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The expected workload for this paper is 12 hours per week (3 hours of teaching and 9 hours of self-directed study).

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Linkages to Other Papers

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Restricted papers: ENGL531

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