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ENGLISH 118A: Illness in Literature

This class provides an overview of illness narratives in fiction from the 19th century to the present. We will examine how authors use language, plot, and structure to portray illness and even recreate its sensations within the reader. We will also study how domestic arrangements, art, medicine and technology mediate the experience of disease. Our discussion of fiction will be buttressed by theoretical texts about the function (and breakdown) of language when deployed to describe physical and mental suffering. Finally, we will consider the ethics of writing about illness. What does it mean to find beauty in descriptions of pain? What role can literature play in building empathy for experiences we have not (yet) experienced ourselves?
Terms: Win | Units: 5 | UG Reqs: WAY-A-II, WAY-ED
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