Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2016-2017 (archived)


Department: Health


Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2016/17 Module Cap 25 Location Durham


  • One module from the following: History and Theory of Medicine (PHIL1051); Introduction to the History and Philosophy of Science (PHIL 1081); Biomedical Ethics (PHIL2051); Science and Religion (PHIL2071); Cultures and Classifications (HUSS 2191); Biology, Culture and Society (ANTH2021), OR other appropriate evidence.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To engage students with the history of the human body in different historical and cultural contexts.
  • To introduce the main concepts of how the human body was understood, perceived and experienced in Antiquity, Medieval Ages, Early Modern and Modern Period.
  • To introduce students to main debates and issues in historical and theoretical scholarship of the body.


  • The seminars will cover major areas of the history of the body. It will make students familiar with how the human body was perceived, understood and experienced in the main historical periods of Antiquity, Medieval Ages, the Early Modern and Modern periods. The different thematic issues of the history of the body will be related to central philosophical, sociological, and anthropological writings on the body including M Foucault, J Butler, M Mauss, D Haraway. Thematic issues to be discussed will include the anatomical, physiological, psychiatric and hormonal body from Antiquity to the modern period, experiencing the body (e.g. pain and suffering, the patient's perspective, imagining the body), body and the self, shaping the body (e.g. mutilated, damaged and handicapped bodies, cosmetic surgery, body-building, asceticism), body identity and sex (e.g. relation of sex and gender, the sexed body, inter- and trans-sexuality), the artificial body (e.g. organ transplantation, cyborgs, cloning).

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • To demonstrate an understanding of the human body in specific cultural contexts and historical periods from Antiquity to the modern period.
  • To show familiarity with key historical writings on the human body.
  • To show familiarity with theoretical approaches towards the history of the body, including key philosophical, sociological, and anthropological writings.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Grasp, analyse, evaluate and deploy subject-specific concepts and arguments.
  • Locate, understand, assess and utilise pertinent historical and philosophical sources.
  • Interpret and criticise relevant texts.
Key Skills:
  • Express themselves clearly and succinctly in writing.
  • Comprehend complex ideas, propositions and theories.
  • Defend their opinions by reasoned argument.
  • Seek out and identify appropriate sources of evidence and information.
  • Tackle problems in a clear-sighted and logical fashion.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • This module will be taught in 22 two-hour seminar sessions. Each of these seminar sessions will be lead by a lecturer.
  • The seminars include a short introduction to the topic by the lecturer; short presentations by students; joint discussion of pre-read publications or primary sources (partly in group work).
  • The seminars will provide students with the opportunity to present their own work in progress, to test their understanding of the course material, and defend and debate different opinions on theories and questions presented in that material.
  • Each student makes at least one short presentation of approximately 20 minutes on one of her or his three essay topics, which will be discussed in the seminar.
  • Guided reading provides a structure within which students exercise and extend their abilities to make use of available learning resources.
  • The learning outcomes will be formally assessed by three summative essays, each of 2,000 words (including footnotes, excluding bibliography). These essays will test the knowledge and understanding of the course material, and the ability to identify and explain historical and theoretical questions raised by the history of the body, and, using relevant research material, to present relevant historical and theoretical arguments that claim to answer those questions, and to make reasoned judgements on the merits and demerits of such theories.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 22 1 per week 2 hours 44
Preparation and Reading 156
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Essays Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2,000 words (including footnotes but excluding bibliography) 33.33%
Essay (also to be presented orally in the seminar as a 'short paper' of about 20 minutes) 2,000 words (including footnotes but excluding bibliography) 33.33%
Essay 2,000 words (including footnotes but excluding bibliography) 33.34%

Formative Assessment:


Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University