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Course: European Narratives of Illness: Medical and Literary Case Histories 1783-1933 (SMLC, PGT)

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This Student Selected Component (SSC) will examine writings on illness by doctors, patients and creative writers in a European context and engage with the narrative exploration of the damaged body, soul or personality, with self and identity, normality and deviance, and with ‘illness as metaphor’ in a broad sense. The course will introduce students to a range of illness narratives over a seminal 150-year period in the history of medicine and ideas; from the early development of psychiatry in the Age of Enlightenment to the National Socialist Party’s seizure of power. No foreign language competence is required for this SSC.

Course Aims:

To present and analyse medical and literary narratives of illness from different European cultures from the Enlightenment to the pre-Second World War period.

To present and analyse the historical, cultural and symbolic significance of certain illnesses and diseases.

To examine critically the narrative modalities of patient narratives, doctors’ case notes and creative writers’ fictional representations of illness.

Intended Learning Outcomes:

At the end of this SSC you should be able to demonstrate:

  • detailed knowledge of the texts and historical, cultural and medical contexts studied, demonstrated through selective, appropriate and accurate reference or citation;
  • a clear understanding of the historical and cultural relativity of concepts of illness and of the rules and roles of medical discourse;
  • a broader awareness of the changing historical and cultural nature of the dialogic relationship between doctor and patient;
  • a better understanding of European medical discourses of normality and deviance from the Enlightenment to the pre-Second World War period;
  • an increased sensitivity towards narrative presentations of illness and consequently a heightened awareness of the doctor’s professional, ethical and personal role in patient management.