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

Madness and Psychiatry (HIST*3640)

Code and section: HIST*3640*01

Term: Fall 2021

Instructor: Linda Mahood


Course Synopsis:

This course examines the history of psychiatry and representations of madness in popular culture from the “birth of the asylum” in the 18th 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 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, human rights and activism, and the intersections of psychiatry with gender, sexuality, race, class, love and war.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Demonstrate comprehension of evidence-based scholarship based on written activities and participation in small group discussion.
  2. Read, view and analyze academic journal articles, historical documents, contemporary monograph, films and documentaries that explore representation of madness from the perspective of experts and subjects (patients).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. 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. Develop skills related the wider principles of academic integrity to which the scholarly community subscribes. 
  5. 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.
  6. Understand historical construction of mental illness. Develop respect for neurodiversity.

Texts Required 

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

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

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

*** Films (available at the Library, on iTunes, Netflix, or through the instructor). Additional online readings through Courselink, and Library online Course Reserve system.



Method of Delivery:

One 80-minute asynchronous lecture. 
One 50-minute virtual synchronous small group discussion. 

Method of Evaluation and Weights:

Research Essay Proposal (10%) 
Essay: Representations of "Madness" (30%) 
Participation during Discussion (15%) 
Midterm #1 (20%)
Midterm #2 (25%)

**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.
class of the semester.**