Bodies of Evidence: Reading The Body In Eighteenth Century Literature - EN633

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2017-18 2018-19
Canterbury Autumn
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6 30 (15)
Canterbury Spring
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6 30 (15) DR RJ Richardson




Not available as wild



This module explores the eighteenth century fascination with bodies and the truths (or lies) bodies were supposed to reveal. Our focus will be on the ways in which the body is read and constructed in eighteenth-century literature and how these readings and constructions reflect various concerns about class, race, gender and sexuality. Efforts to regulate the body (particularly the female, plebeian and racialised body) became the focus of many reformers and philanthropists in the period who sought to recuperate the productive (and reproductive) labour of idle or transgressive bodies to serve the nation's moral and financial economies. Other writers, however, emphasised the body's potential to work against social and cultural norms, focusing on events such as the masquerade, in which women dressed as men and aristocrat’s as chimney sweeps.

Through the course of this module we will examine a range of literary representations of the body which seek both the control the body and to celebrate its disruptive potential. We will read texts from a variety of genres including medical literature, misogynist satire, sentimental novels, popular fiction, travel writing and pornography. Primary texts will be read alongside recent critical work by Thomas Lacquer, Michel Foucault, Roy Porter, and Peter Stallybrass and Allon White, which illuminate the ideological stakes writers played for when writing about the body. Topics for discussion will include disability and deformity, race, the sentimental body, dress and the body, the body as text and the relationship between the body and the body politic. The primary focus of this option will be literature, but we will also examine visual representations of the body in caricature and satire as well as in the portraiture.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

10 x 2-hour seminars and 10 x 1-hour lectures

Method of assessment

This module can be taken by standard coursework route or by dissertation. NB: students can only take ONE MODULE by dissertation in stage 3.

Module by standard coursework:
The module will be assessed by two 3000 word essays (90%) and seminar performance (10%)

Module by dissertation:
Assessment will be in the form of:
1) a 500-word dissertation proposal (formative assessment and non-marked)
2) a dissertation of 6000 words (90%)
3) seminar performance mark (in accordance with the criteria published in the School of English Undergraduate Handbook (10%)

Preliminary reading

Batchelor, J. (2005). Dress, Distress and Desire: Reading the Body in Eighteenth-Century Literature. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Foucault, M. (1978), The History of Sexuality: Volume 1 An Introduction, trans. Robert Hurley. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
McMaster, J. (2003). Reading the Body in the Eighteenth-Century Novel. Basingstoke: Macmillan.
Richardson, S. (2002). Pamela, Harmondsworth: Penguin
Scott, S. (1995). Millenium Hall. Peterborough: Broadview.
Stallybrass, P, and A. White (1986). The Politics and Poetics of Transgression. New York: Cornell University Press.
Sterne, L. (2003). Tristram Shandy. Harmondsworth: Penguin,

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successful completion of this module students will be able to demonstrate the following subject specific learning outcomes:

• read and respond to eighteenth century literature
• consider the body is a cultural construct
• read the set texts within their relevant historical, literary and cultural contexts
• both apply and interrogate critical and theoretical strategies appropriate to the study of the body in the eighteenth century
• discuss and write about visual culture and consider the relationship between print culture and the visual arts

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successful completion of this module students will be able to demonstrate the following generic learning outcomes:

• develop their abilities to analyse texts critically and make comparisons across a range of reading
• develop their command of written and spoken English and their abilities to articulate coherent critical arguments
• understand and interrogate various critical approaches and the theoretical assumptions that underpin these approaches
• develop their presentational skills
• develop their abilities to carry out independent research

In addition, students taking the module by dissertation will be able to:
marshal complex knowledge and present it clearly and logically in the substantive form of a dissertation

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