Ethics, Narrative Competence and Health (MMHU6910)


This unit of study explores the connections between narrative, literature, ethics and health and medicine. Students will be introduced to the fundamental importance of narrative competence for health professionals and to tools for developing narrative competence. We will consider a range of ethical issues arising from narrative and literature in health and medicine, including differences between how patients/ the public and health professionals/ clinicians understand and value health and illness, and how to incorporate issues around identity, existence and values into public health and medicine. Students will also be given new analytic tools from the humanities for use in health-related settings. It will introduce students to influential theories of narrative and modes of cultural, literary and linguistic analysis that can further enrich our understandings of these texts. Students will encounter and analyse a wide range of literary and non-literary narratives concerned with illness, embodiment and healing. Topics or themes covered during the course include: narrative theory (narratology); narrative competence; literary/cultural representations of health practitioners; rhetoric (semiotics) of health; literary/cultural constructions of disability and femininity; narrative ethics; language and embodiment; medico-literary 'genres; narrating death and dying; and the limits of narrative.
All assessments must be completed to pass this Unit.

Our courses that offer this unit of study

Further unit of study information


13 x 2hr seminar or Distance Education (online). Attendance is compulsory if enrolled in face-to-face mode.


1x500-1000wd online task (10%); 1x1,500wd essay (30%); 1x3000wd essay (50%); 1 oral presentation or equivalent online task (10%)

Faculty/department permission required?


Study this unit outside a degree

Non-award/non-degree study

If you wish to undertake one or more units of study (subjects) for your own interest but not towards a degree, you may enrol in single units as a non-award student.

Cross-institutional study

If you are from another Australian tertiary institution you may be permitted to underake cross-institutional study in one or more units of study at the University of Sydney.