Module Identifier EN35920  
Module Title LITERATURE AND THE BODY 1700-1775  
Academic Year 2001/2002  
Co-ordinator Dr David Shuttleton  
Semester Semester 2  
Other staff Mrs Carol Marshall  
Course delivery Seminar   20 Hours (10 x 2 hr Seminars)  
Assessment Continuous assessment   2 essays (2,500 words each)   100%  
  Resit assessment   Resubmit any failed elements and/or make good any missing elements.    

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. For seminars, the syllabus falls into four thematic sections:


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: 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: Henry Fielding, Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon (1755) and Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771)

Recommended Editions for Purchase:

Daniel Defoe, Journal of the Plague Year (Norton); Jonathan Swift, Selected Poems (Everyman); Sarah Scott, Millenium Hall (Broadview); Frances Sheridan, The Memoirs of Miss Sidney Bidulph (Oxford World's Classics); Henry Mackenzie, The Man of Feeling (Penguin, if available), Laurence Sterne, A Sentimental Journey (Oxford World's Classics); Henry Fielding, Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon (Penguin); Tobias Smollett, Humphry Clinker (Penguin).

Aims and objectives

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

Learning outcomes

On completion of this module students should typically be able to:
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;
discuss the texts and their various contexts coherently;
write about them in a well-structured and well-argued way.