Rotting corpses and pallid muses lie at the inception of modern poetry. ‘The new is akin to death’, wrote Theodore Adorno, when he pondered the morbidity and newness of the poetry of Charles Baudelaire. And T.S. Eliot likewise found in Baudelaire’s splenetic and insalubrious verse the well-spring of modernity in literature.
Why did style become so sickly? This course will follow a history of morbidity in poetry from 1850 to the present day. We’ll range from the provocative and stylised sickness of Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil and the funereal fables of Emily Dickinson to the contagious hospitals of the modernist poetry of Mina Loy and William Carlos Williams to the psychopathology of race and capitalism in the lyric essays of Claudia Rankine and Dodie Bellamy.
The seminars will be rooted in volumes of poetry and lyric essays, but we’ll also draw on philosophy, medical history, theory, and criticism. Students will be encouraged to develop their own original theses on literature and disease. The course serves as a standalone module but would also offer grounding for students wishing to pursue doctoral research in nineteenth-century, modernist and contemporary poetry and the medical humanities.
|Semester 1 2023-24
This module will examine the poetics and the aesthetics of sickness. We’ll investigate how and why innovation in British, French and American Literature became wedded to illness. We’ll consider how medical histories and specific diseases like syphilis and tuberculosis impinged on literary history. [NB: Two sessions will cover French poets but all texts will be given in translation and a knowledge of French is not necessary to take this module]
On successful completion of the module, you should be able to:
Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with poetry and pathology from 1850 to the present day.
Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with aesthetics and disease in modern British, American and French poetry.
Evaluate key debates within the relevant critical fields dealing with the medical humanities and modern and contemporary poetry.
Produce independent arguments and ideas which demonstrate an advanced proficiency in critical thinking, research, and writing skills.
|% of module mark
4,500 word essay
You will hand in an essay of 1,400-1,600 words in Week 6 of the Autumn term for the Postgraduate Life in Practice module. The main purpose of the essay is to ensure that the department can identify those students who may require additional assistance with academic writing skills. Material from this essay may be re-visited in either one of the January essays or the dissertation. It is therefore an early chance to work through material that might be used in assessed work. The title topic of the essay, like the title topic of all assessed work for the degree, is left open to the individual student.
|% of module mark
4,500 word essay
You will receive feedback on all assessed work within the University deadline, and will often receive it more quickly. The purpose of feedback is to inform your future work; it is designed to help you to improve your work, and the Department also offers you help in learning from your feedback. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further you can discuss it with your module tutor, the MA Convenor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours
Texts Studied on this module may include