The Body and Identity (EASM154)

StaffProfessor Corinna Wagner - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level7
Duration of Module Term 1: 9 weeks;

Module aims

  • To trace the cultural and literary history of the body, from the age of Enlightenment to the present day.
  • To understand how the body and mind became the centre of debates about identity. Our interdisciplinary study will involve a variety of texts and genres. Since we will be interested in the various representations of the human body – whether as gendered, diseased, criminal or celebrated – this course will include a substantial visual component (paintings, graphic satire and caricatures). We will supplement our study of these visual and verbal texts with critical readings.
  • One of our key aims will be to investigate how conceptions of the body were (and continue to be) intimately tied to questions about gender, sexuality, normality, dysfunction, pathology, society and power. We will examine how the gendered body, the monstrous body, the surgically altered body, the sick body, the body in recovery, and the racially-differentiated body came under intense scrutiny and dissection (literally and figuratively).

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate knowledge about of a variety of texts focusing on mind, body and identity.
  • 2. Demonstrate an advanced ability to research literary and other media using physical and electronic resources
  • 3. Engage effectively in significant critical debates concerning such related issues as gender politics, racial categorisation, the ethics of medicine, etc.
  • 4. Demonstrate an advanced capacity to combine historical and cultural knowledge and aesthetic criticism

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. Demonstrate an ability to analyse literature, film and art, and to relate those genres to historical context
  • 6. Demonstrate an advanced ability to understand and analyse relevant theoretical ideas, and to apply these ideas to literary and visual texts
  • 7. Demonstrate an advanced ability to digest, select, and organise interdisciplinary material and to trace the development of debate across disciplinary boundaries

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 8. Through a portfolio and a presentation, demonstrate effective communication
  • 9. Through essay-writing, successfully construct a coherent, substantiated argument and to write clear and correct prose
  • 10. Through research for the portfolio, presentation and essay demonstrate an advanced and intellectually-mature capacity to formulate questions, develop ideas and reflect critically on your own learning process.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • The body as machine
  • The mind and psychology
  • Consuming
  • Disease and dysfunction
  • Monstrosity
  • Treatments
  • Doctors and hospitals
  • Sexuality
  • Reproduction
  • Aging and Dying

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching20Seminars
Guided independent study100Seminar preparation (independent)
Guided independent study180Reading, research and essay preparation

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Portfolio and presentation4010 page portfolio of creative, critical, autobiographical, visual and/or written work (can be a blog) and a short (10 min.) presentation on it 1-8, 10Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up
Essay605000 words1-7, 9-10Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Portfolio and presentation 10 page portfolio of creative, critical, autobiographical, visual and/or written portfolio (can be a blog) and a short (10 minute) presentation on it1-8, 10Referral/Deferral period
EssayEssay1-7, 9-10Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 50%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 50%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading: and of Roy Porter’s books on the history of medicine

Core Reading:

  • A Body of Work: An Anthology of Poetry and Medicine, ed. Corinna Wagner and Andy Brown (Bloomsbury, 2016)
  • Jim Crace, Being Dead
  • A digitized package of writing, photography and art

Secondary Reading: (there is a large amount of contextual reading in Body of Work, but some examples of further reading include:

  • Thomas Laqueur Making Sex (Harvard, 1992)
  • Georges Canguilhem, The Normal and the Pathological (Zone Books, 2007)
  • Eds. Laura Lunger Knoppers, Joan B. Landes, Monstrous Bodies/Political Monstrosities in Early Modern Europe (Cornell, 2004)
  • Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (Vintage, 1995)
  • Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality: An Introduction, vol. 1 (Vintage, 1990)
  • The Body, ed. Donn Welton, (Blackwell, 2004)
  • Barbara Maria Stafford, Body Criticism: Imagining the Unseen in Enlightenment Art and Medicine (MIT, 1993)
  • Susan Bordo, Unbearable Weight (University of California, 1993)
  • Corinna Wagner, Pathological Bodies (University of California, 2013)
  • Lauren Berlant, Cruel Optimism (Duke University Press, 2011)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

  • Bill Douglas Centre
  • Special Collections
  • Wellcome Collection

Available as distance learning?


Origin date

June 2013

Last revision date


Key words search

the body, photography, art, medicine, monstrosity, death, identity, Victorian, Modern, Enlightenment, Romantic