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

Health, Mind and Body (HIST*4200)

Code and section: HIST*4200*01

Term: Fall 2023


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 as well as efforts to morally regulate minds and bodies. 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, race, women, hysteria, World War I and shell shock, eugenics, mental hygiene, psychoanalysis, pharmacology, mad studies, and deinstitutionalization.


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.

Course Format: 

Two seminars per week, Tuesdays and Thursdays 10am-11:20am. These will be in the form of lectures for the first 2-3 classes, then student-led seminar discussions for the remainder of the semester.

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  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.

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 website 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.