Health, Mind and Body (HIST*4200) | College of Arts

Health, Mind and Body (HIST*4200)

Code and section: HIST*4200*01

Term: Fall 2021

Instructor: Tara Abraham


Course Synopsis:

This course examines the historical dimensions of medical efforts to understand the relations between mind, brain, and body, from the late nineteenth century to the present. Focusing primarily on the American context, we will examine the institutional dimensions of attempts to both understand and treat individuals suffering from mental illness and neurological disorders. In relation to this, we will also explore attempts to make sense of the brain and its function as a locus of behaviour, affect, and mental state. We will approach our subject from the perspective of several historical actors, including scientists, clinicians, patients, and critics. Wherever possible, we will pay attention to the effects of social and cultural context on how individual minds and brains been constructed, explained, and treated. Topics will include asylum culture, patient history, hysteria, World War I and shell shock, eugenics, psychoanalysis, pharmacology, and deinstitutionalization.

Course Format: 

Two face-to-face 80-minute seminars per week.

Learning Outcomes:

  1. Discuss and analyze approaches to madness and mental illness and the reasons for the prominence of certain approaches according to historical context.
  2. Understand the status of psychiatry as a discipline and medical specialty and how and why its status has changed over time.
  3. Critically evaluate and discuss scholarly work in the history of medicine and other relevant scholarly fields, through the process of seminar presentations and discussions.
  4. Effectively use both primary and secondary historical sources in making an historical argument and presenting that argument clearly in written form.
  5. Develop skills in oral presentation of research and the process of scholarly inquiry.
  6. Collaborate with peers in giving and receiving critical feedback on research and written work.


10.00 credits, including 1.50 credits in History at the 3000-level.


Restricted to students in the B.A. Honours program with a minimum of 70% average in all History course attempts.

Method of Evaluation and Weights:

Seminar Participation 20%
Seminar Presentations (x 2, 12.5% each)    25%
Research Paper Proposal    10%
Research Presentation 10%
Peer Review 5%
Research Paper 30%

Texts Required: 

A set of online readings through Ares, the University of Guelph’s online Course Reserve system.

**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.**