Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 20 Hours. 10 x 2 hour seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 2 essays (2,500 words each)  Continuous Assessment:  100%
Supplementary Assessment Resubmit any failed elements and/or make good any missing elements. Where this involves re-submission of work, a new topic must be selected. 

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module students should typically be able to:

1. demonstrate that they have acquired a knowledge and understanding of the primary texts on the module and a critical awareness of the broader issues raised by the module;

2. discuss the texts and their various contexts coherently;

3. write about them in a well-structured and well-argued way.


This module aims:

1. to introduce students to a range of literary texts from this historical period - usually associated with the emergence of Enlightenment 'modernity';

2. to familiarise students with a range of historical-cultural contexts within which they might usefully read the role of 'the body' as a signifier within these texts;

3. to introduce students to issues of representation concerning 'the body' as a diverse and contested literary/cultural trope; and thus encourage an engagement with historical literature as being both ideologically constituted and active within a specific historically distant culture;

4. to encourage an ability to engage with and apply some recent theoretical ideas concerning 'embodiment' as a trope which brings into play a range of issues such as religion, class, consumption, gender and sexuality.

Brief description

'The Body' is an important topic in contemporary literary criticism and theory. Recent work has been concerned with how literary representations of embodiment reveal the critical relationship between concepts of subjectivity, social being, cultural meanings and political regulation.
As recent medical controversies have shown bodies raise difficult questions about ownership and materialism, gender and sexuality, many of which began in the eighteenth-century (Am I merely a body? Is my body a container for a spirit or soul? If so, is it a temple or a prison? Is gender essential to 'the body'?). They also invite questions of aesthetics, (What is 'Beauty'?) and language: literary texts abound in metaphors derived from the body. Such concerns have been particularly fruitful in eighteenth-century literary studies, where attention to historically situated texts allows us to contest a reductive notion of 'the body' as something essential and unchanging, and instead interrogate models of embodiment as distinctive social constructs.
The set texts belong to several genres (journalism, poetry, pamphlets, autobiography, satires and novels), and prompt workshop discussions of a lively range of topics reflecting the anxious shift from religious to more secular, Enlightenment conceptions. Topics include the regulation of the city as the site of disease ('the body politic'); 'the spirit made flesh'; scatology; the politics of beauty and 'the grotesque'; the gendered body; physiognomy; body language; illness as metaphor and fashionable conceptions of nervous sensibility. You will be encouraged to engage with recent criticism and introduced to some relevant theoretical ideas. Detailed reading lists will be supplied throughout.



_Introduction: Representing the Body in the Eighteenth Century.

_Part I: The Material Body: Economists and Enthusiasts
Set Texts: Daniel Defoe, Journal of the Plague Year (1722) and Jonathan Swift, 'The Mechanical Operations of the Spirit' (1704) (supplied).

_Part II: The Grotesque Body
Set Texts: William Hay, Deformity: an Essay (1755) and Jonathan Swift's 'Scatological Poems' from Selected Poetry (Everyman); and selected women's poetry (supplied).

_Part III: The Polite Body: Gender and Sensibility
Set Texts: Sarah Scott, Millenium Hall (1762) and/or Frances Sheridan, Memoirs of Miss Sidney Bidulph (1761) and either Henry Mackenzie, The Man of Feeling (1771) or Laurence Sterne, A Sentimental Journey (1768)

_Part IV: The Body Politic: Splenetick Travelers
Set Texts: Henry Fielding, Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon (1755) and Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771)


This module is at CQFW Level 6