Madness and Psychiatry (HIST*3640) | College of Arts

Madness and Psychiatry (HIST*3640)

Code and section: HIST*3640*01

Term: Fall 2018

Instructor: Linda Mahood


Course Description:

This course examines the history of psychiatry and representations of madness in popular culture from the “birth of the asylum” in the 19th century to the present. We will examine the reasons why psychiatry and its history have been sources of criticism, controversy and change through an examination of both primary and secondary sources. We will examine the social and cultural contexts through which psychiatry has risen as a lucrative medical specialty and experience of willing and unwilling patients. Through lectures and class discussion on topics including the history of asylums, the rise and fall of hysteria, psychosurgery and the development of psychoanalysis, we will explore ways in which psychiatry is related to sexuality, gender, religion, war, pharmacy, literature and cinema. Topics will include the history of psychiatric institutions, the history of psychiatric treatments (both somatic and psychodynamic), the history of mental health movements, diagnosis and classification, patient experiences, human rights and activism, and the intersections of psychiatry with gender, sexuality, race, class, love and war.

Learning Outcomes:

The University's Undergraduate Learning Outcomes are:
1) Critical and Creative Thinking: Students in 3640 will be able to demonstrate comprehension of evidence-based scholarship based on largely written activities and individual research.
2) Literacy: Students in 3640 will read, view and analyze academic journal articles, historical documents, contemporary monograph, films and documentaries that explore representation of madness from the perspective of experts and subjects (patients). Students will write scholarly research papers on this material
3) Global Understanding: Students in 3640 will be able to analyze critical issues in the science and history of psychiatry and discriminatory practices against stigmatized and discriminated against populations from a Human Right’s perspective and understanding.
4)  Communicating: Students in 3640 will participate in lecture-based discussion.
5) Professional and Ethical Behavior: Students in 3640 will develop skills related the wider principles of academic integrity to which the scholarly community subscribes. They develop respect for the point of view of peers and effective interaction with instructors. They will learn that the practice of history is bound by methods and approaches that model best practices in reading, writing and reasoning.

Method of Evaluation and Weights:

Research Paper Proposal and Bibliography    15%
One Short Monograph Response:                   25%
•    Dora
•    The Bell Jar    
Representations of “Madness” Research Paper    35%
Take-home Exam    25%

Required Reading:

Edward Shorter, A History of Psychiatry. From the Era of the Asylum to the Age of Innocence. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1997.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper (

Sigmund Freud, A Case of Hysteria (Dora). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar. London: Faber and Faber, 1966

Michel Foucault, "The Great Confinement" (on Courselink)

Films (available at the library, on iTunes, or through the instructor)

Please note:  This is a preliminary web course description only.  The department reserves the right to change without notice any information in this description.  The final, binding course outline will be distributed in the first class of the semester.