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CO4022 Illness and Literature

SCOTCAT credits:15
Academic year(s):2017/8
SCQF Level 10
Planned timetable:To be arranged.

This module will explore the wide range of functions and representations of illness and disease in a variety of European (French, English, German, Italian and Russian) literary and theoretical texts from the 14th to the 20th century, and how its metaphorical employment can reflect changing beliefs related to individual identity, socio-cultural codes, narrative construction and the possibilities and limitations of language itself. Starting with a brief theoretical overview of modern canonical writings on illness by Virginia Woolf, Susan Sontag and Elaine Scarry which will provide an introduction to common tropes of mythologizing and metaphorizing illness, as well as the linguistic challenges to its representation, we will move on to focused thematic explorations of disease, employing close comparative readings of texts to reflect upon and discuss three broad topics: early plague narratives; the aesthetics of Romantic illness and the idea of illness as enlightenment; and the modern and postmodern employment of disease to subvert canonical representations of time and language in literature.

Place in programme(s) and relationship to other modules


Optional for Comparative Literature

UG Pre-requisite(s):Permission of the Comparative Literature Honours Adviser

Learning and teaching methods and delivery

Weekly contact:1 seminar and an optional surgery hour.
Total module hours:
  • Scheduled learning: 16
  • Guided independent study: 134

Assessment pattern

UG As defined by QAA:
  • Written examinations: 0%
  • Practical examinations: 0%
  • Coursework: 100%
UG As used by St Andrews:Coursework = 100%
UG Re-assessment:Written Coursework = 100%


Module coordinator:Dr E Bond
Module teaching staff:Team taught