spring 2021
HIF-1114 Illness in Children’s and Young Adult Literature - 10 ECTS

Last changed 01.12.2020

Application deadline

Applicants from Nordic countries: 1 June for the autumn semester and 1 December for the spring semester. Exchange students and Fulbright students: 1 October for the spring semester and 15 April for the autumn semester.

Type of course

This course serves as a "fellesemne" for bachelor i språkfag (engelsk, finsk og kvensk, nordisk, russisk, samisk, spansk), 4th semester (1000-level).

This course may be taken as a single course.

Course content

This course deals with representations of illness in English and Scandinavian children’s and young adult literature. Illness has long been an established motif in children’s literature, with prominent examples such as Astrid Lindgren’s The Brothers Lionheart (1973), while the amount of young adult novels dealing with illness has steadily increased following the commercial success of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (2012). The course explores illlness narratives intended for children and young adults using several different approaches. From the perspective of the sociology of literature, we investigate both the book market and the intended readership of such narratives. Within the context of the medical humanities, we make use of the academic field of literature and medicine to study the style and structure of these narratives. We employ a gender studies perspective to examine gendered depictions of sick children and young adults, as well as the genderization of illness in itself.

The interdisciplinary nature of the course will ensure that students receive training in combining research methodologies from within and without the discipline of literary studies. The secondary literature used in the course will include texts written by medical professionals. The primary literature will include both Scandinavian and English works of fiction, with the opportunity given to read works in translation. The historical span of the course will range from the 19th century until today. While the course is suitable for all interested students, it is particularly suited to students who may want to incorporate illness narratives in their own teaching activities.

Objectives of the course

The students have the following learning outcomes:


The student has:

  • advanced knowledge of illness as a motif in classical and contemporary children’s and young adult literature
  • insight into the processes of production, reception and canonization of illness narratives intended for children and young adults
  • an understanding of methodological issues relating to the academic study of illness narratives as a literary genre


The student can:

  • give an account of the development of illness as a theme in literature written for a young audience
  • identify the common characteristics of illness narratives intended for children and young adults
  • critically appraise the processes of reception and canonization of children’s and young adult literature

Competence The student can:

  • conduct an independent analysis of children’s and young adult literature, making use of established and emerging research methodologies

Language of instruction


Teaching methods

Ca. 52 teaching hours, with seminars and group discussions. The students will be expected to collaborate in reading groups.

All courses will be evaluated once during the period of the study program. The board of the program decides which courses will be evaluated by students and teacher each year


The following coursework requirements must be completed and approved in order to take the final exam:

  • An oral presentation on a topic of the student’s choice.
  • A text consisting of 4-5 pages on a topic of the student’s choice.

All coursework requirements may be completed collaboratively. Coursework requirements are evaluated as "approved" or "not approved".

The exam will consist of a one week home exam (8-10 pages).

The exam will be assessed on an A-F grades scale. Grades are A-E for passed and F for failed. Retake is offered in in the beginning of the following semester in cases of grade F or Fail. Deferred examination is offered in the beginning of the following semester if the student is unable to take the final exam due to illness or other exceptional circumstances. Registration deadline for retake is January 15 for autumn semester exams and August 15 for spring semester exams.


  • About the course
  • Campus: Tromsø |
  • ECTS: 10
  • Course code: HIF-1114