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

Madness & Psychiatry (HIST*3640)

Code and section: HIST*3640*01

Term: Winter 2021

Instructor: Tara Abraham


Method of Delivery:

Synchronous 80-minute lectures, twice a week.

Course Synopsis:

This course examines the histories of psychiatry and madness from the era of the asylum in the 19th century to the present day. We will examine the reasons why psychiatry and its history have been sources of critique and controversy through an examination of both primary and secondary sources. We will examine the social and cultural contexts through which psychiatry has risen as a medical specialty, and the lives and experiences of its subjects. Topics will include the history of institutions, the history of treatments (somatic and psychodynamic), the history of mental health movements, diagnosis and classification, patient experiences, the contexts of war, activism, and the intersections of psychiatry with gender, race, and class.

Learning Outcomes:

  1. Through independent research and writing, to develop skills in critical thinking, scholarly argument, and written communication of ideas about the histories of madness and psychiatry.
  2. To understand and critically evaluate the history of madness through an understanding of patient experiences, cultural responses, and institutional settings.
  3. To evaluate and discuss the historiography of psychiatry and its critics.
  4. To understand the various approaches to mental illness in psychiatry and the contextual reasons why certain approaches flourished.
  5. Through course readings and discussion, to develop skills in critical evaluation of information, discussion, and oral presentation.



Method of Evaluation and Weights:

Class Participation - 15%
Critical Evaluation Assignment (in pairs) - 25%
Primary Source Book Response [Woolf or Kesey] - 25%
Take-Home Final Exam - 35%

Texts Required:

  • Edward Shorter. A History of Psychiatry: From the Era of the Asylum to the Age of Prozac (New York: Wiley, 1997).
  • Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway (Harcourt, 2001).
  • Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Berkeley, 2016).
  • 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.