General information

Course type AMUPIE
Module title Medical discourses in literary and paraliterary texts in English across centuries
Language English
Module lecturer dr Katarzyna Bronk - Bacon
Lecturer's email
Lecturer position PhD
Faculty Faculty of English
Semester 2022/2023 (summer)
Duration 15


Classes start at the end of April 2023

Module aim (aims)

The course teaches the students to conduct interdisciplinary and diachronic research into the uses of medical discourse in various types and genres of (para-)literary / (non-)fictional texts in English. It will introduce the students to alternative ways of reading, speaking and representing health and illness than practiced in data-based medicine. It achieves this via a contextual study of literature and paraliterary texts which narrate personal and embodied experiences of health and illness. Ultimately, the course points to the significance of humanities in holistic approach to health and illness, teaching about origins and roots of contemporary discourses of various types of maladies as well as well-being. 

Pre-requisites in terms of knowledge, skills and social competences (where relevant)

The student should have a good grasp of English (B2 level) and be interested in conducting a reading-heavy and interdisciplinary research related to medical humanities. 


Week 1: Introduction to medical humanities: Literary and cultural perspectives


Week 2: The history of the (healthy) body and body politic in cultural narratives and representations 


Week 3: The pure body: Morality and physicality (texts of conduct in English)  


Week 4: “Fashionable” diseases: The English malady, the French illness, gout and tuberculosis 


Week 5: The life-giving body: Pregnancy and labour in health and conduct texts in English 


Week 6: Mental health and illness [1]: History of madness and its institutionalisation 


Week 7: Mental health and illness [2]: Melancholy; nostalgia; depression 


Week 8: Mental health and illness [3]: Hysteria and the resting cure in literature 


Week 9: Mental health and illness [4]: Shellshock and PTSD in post-WWI literature in English 


Week 10: The senses: The loss of sight and hearing in literature and culture (i.e. ego-documents)  


Week 11: Doctors and patients: A (para-)literary relationship 


Week 12: The ageing and aged body 


Week 13: The dying body in literary narratives 


Week 14: The un-dead body: Anatomy theatres and gothic re-creations 


Week 15: Disability in literature and culture 

Reading list

Axelrod-Sokolov, M. (2018). Madness in fiction literary essays from Poe to Fowles. London: Palgrave Macmillan. 

Bewell, A. (1999). Romanticism and colonial disease. Medicine and culture series. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 

Brody, H. (2003). Stories of sickness. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Byrne, K. (2011). Tuberculosis and the Victorian literary imagination. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Caldwell, J. M. (2004). Literature and medicine in nineteenth-century Britain: From Mary Shelley to George Eliot. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Carel, H. and Cooper, R. eds. (2014). Health, illness, and disease: Philosophical essay. Abingdon: Routledge. 

Cole, T. R., Carson, R. A., and Carlin, N.S. (2015). Medical Humanities: An Introduction. New York: Cambridge University Press. 

Conway, A. M., and McMurran, M. H. (2016). Mind, body, motion, matter: Eighteenth-century British and French literary perspectives. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 

Doig, K. H. and Sturzer, F. B. eds. (2014). Women, gender and disease in eighteenth-century England and France. Newcastle Upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars.  

Foucault, M. (1965). Madness and civilization: A history of insanity in the Age of Reason, tr. R. Howard. New York: Random House. 

Foucault, M. (1975). The birth of the clinic: An archeology of medical perception. New York: Vintage Books. 

Gentilcore, D. (2016). Food and health in Early Modern Europe: Diet, medicine and society, 1450-1800. London: Bloomsbury Academic. 

Jones, T. Wear, D., and Friedman, L. D. eds. (2014). Health humanities reader. Piscataway, NJ: Rudgers University Press. 

Kleiman, A. (1988). The illness narratives: Suffering, healing and the human condition. New York: Basic Books. 

Meyers, J. (1985). Disease and the novel, 1880-1960. New York: St. Martin's Press. 

Paster, G. K. (2004). Humoring the body: Emotions and the Shakespearean stage. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 

Pietrzak-Franger, M. Syphilis in Victorian literature and culture medicine, knowledge and the spectacle of Victorian invisibility. London: Palgrave.  

Porter, R. (2001). Bodies politic: disease, death and doctors in Britain 1650–1900. London: Reaktion Books. 

Showalter, E. (1985). The female malady: Women, madness, and English culture, 1830–1980. New York: Pantheon. 

Vrettos, A. (1995). Somatic fictions: Imagining illness in Victorian culture. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 

Whitehead, A., Woods, A., Atkinson, S. J., Macnaughton, J., Richards, J. eds. (2016). The Edinburgh companion to the critical medical humanities. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. 

Wild, W. (2006). Medicine-by-post: The changing voice of illness in eighteenth-century British consulation letters and literature. Amsterdam and New York: Brill.