Postgraduate taught 

Comparative Literature MLitt

European Narratives of Illness. Medical and Literary Case Histories 1783-1933 GERMAN5001

  • Academic Session: 2021-22
  • School: School of Modern Languages and Cultures
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course will examine writings on illness by doctors, patients and creative writers in a European context. The historical and cultural significance of illnesses such as hysteria, neurasthenia, melancholy/depression and schizophrenia, and contagious diseases such as tuberculosis and syphilis, will be investigated, as will the narrative exploration of self and identity, normality and deviance.


4 hours per week at times to be arranged.

Excluded Courses



■ Assessment consists of a 4,000word essay or equivalent exercise (weighted at 75%), along with a supporting position piece (approx. 2,000 words with bibliography and other relevant supporting materials) derived from a PDP study diary (weighted at 25%).

Course Aims

The 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; 

■ explore the cultural and historical significance of certain illnesses and diseases; 

■ examine critically the narrative modalities of patient narratives, doctors' case notes and creative writers' fictional representations of illness;

■ relate public discourses of normality and deviance to the context of critical and cultural theory.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:


■ demonstrate a clear understanding of the works and key concepts discussed;

■ demonstrate detailed knowledge of the texts and historical, cultural and medical contexts studied, demonstrated through selective, appropriate and accurate reference or citation;

■ demonstrate critical skills in the close reading and analysis of the texts studied, manifested through a command of an appropriate range of critical terminology and concepts and the capacity to apply these approaches with relevance and discrimination;

■ demonstrate the ability to take account of formal elements and generic conventions, as well as the shaping effects of historical and cultural context on the production of narrative within public discourses on illness.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.