SEL3356 : Madness, Medicine and Modern Literature

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


The module aims to introduce students to a range of modern fiction in a way which:

1. Examines the relationship between medicine and literature;

2. Analyses the fictional representation of ‘madness’ or ‘hysteria’;

3. Evaluates the relationship between narratives of 'hysteria' and gender construction;

4. Assesses how the theme of madness inflects literary form;

5. Situates fiction in its social, historical political contexts.

Outline Of Syllabus

This module examines the relationship between medicine and modern literature through a specific focus on a range of novels that represent the contested condition of traumatic hysteria.

The first section of the module focuses on representations of women's madness, looking first at classic definitions of hysteria and at feminist responses to them. This will provide the context for reading three women's fictionalisations of madness which span the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. We will think as we read the novels about how these women writers deploy madness and its treatment as a mode of social and gender critique.

The second section of the module turns to the subject of male 'hysteria' as it has punctuated the twentieth century in the form of war trauma. Again, we will read classic medical accounts and then examine three novels which respond from a variety of perspectives to dominant medical narratives of war and combat, focusing particularly on their construction of masculinity.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion134:0034:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading180:0080:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching122:0024:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study138:0038:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures will be used to set out the contexts (social, historical, literary) and to introduce key medical contexts and their relation to the literary text. The longer 2 hour seminars will be used to develop and consolidate ideas concerning the medical definitions and constructions of 'madness', as well as responses to them, and to carry out structured close reading exercises in dialogue with peers. The student-led study groups will be used to support the work in the first half of the seminar, by allowing students to discuss medical material and its relation to the novel and to test ideas in advance of the formal taught session. Students will have the opportunity to complete a mock exam paper on which they will receive oral and written feedback.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1801A100The examination is closed book with Section B of the exam circulated in advance
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Section A of the exam tests close reading skills. Section B tests the ability to compare two or more primary texts in terms of the wider debates of the module.

Study Abroad Alternative Assessment: 100% Essay

Reading Lists