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Narratives of the Body


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 5
  • Convenor: Professor Jo Winning
  • Assessment: a 2500-word essay (35%), essay title, plan and bibliography (10%) and a 3500-word research essay (55%)

Module description

How do we speak about and define bodily experience? In what ways do having a body fix us in intimate, social and cultural contexts? What is the connection between the body and the mind?

As the field of body studies shows us answering these kinds of questions is both an important and yet complicated endeavour. In this module we will examine representations and constructions of the human body across different historical periods, mapping the shifts and changes in our understandings of the body and its boundaries. We will analyse the body via five main themes: technology and the body, the sexed body, the body in space, the diseased body and the reproductive body. Reading a range of different kinds of materials, from literature, film and art to critical and cultural theories, we will consider the many different stories that have been told about what it means to have and be a body. The summer term sessions will focus on research skills and are designed to support you as you undertake the writing of the extended research essay.


  • Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake (2003)
  • J.G. Ballard, Crash (1973)
  • Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus (1984)
  • Rachel Cusk, A Life’s Work: on Becoming a Mother (2002)
  • Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex (2003)
  • Anna Furse, The Infertility Companion (1997)
  • Nan Goldin, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1989)
  • Thom Gunn, The Man with Night Sweats (1992)
  • Radclyffe Hall, The Well of Loneliness (1928)
  • Oscar Moore, PWA: Looking AIDS in the Face (1996)
  • Ann Oakley, Fracture: Adventures of a Broken Body (2007)
  • Deborah Padfield, Perceptions of Pain (2003)
  • Mary Warnock, Making Babies: Is There a Right Way to Have Children? (2003)
  • Virginia Woolf, Orlando (1928)


  • Alien, dir. Ridley Scott (1979)
  • Blade Runner, dir. Ridley Scott (1982)
  • Ma Vie en Rose, dir. Alain Berliner (1998)
  • Metropolis, dir. Fritz Lang (1927)


  • The Body in the Country: Ingrid Pollard, Postcards Home (2004)
  • The Body in the City: DV8 Physical Theatre, Enter Achilles

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will have:

  • been introduced to key literary and artistic representations of the body in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries
  • been introduced to key areas of debate and analysis in the fields of dominant culture and body studies
  • key research skills and the ability to formulate your own research questions and produce longer critical analysis.