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Unit information: Madness: A Modern History (Level C Special Topic) in 2015/16

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Unit name Madness: A Modern History (Level C Special Topic)
Unit code HIST10029
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Victoria Bates
Open unit status Not open



Special Topic Project

School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

Is ‘madness’ a modern phenomenon? This question has often been posed by historians, many of whom have observed a so-called medicalisation of ‘mental illness’ over the last two hundred years. This special topic will examine the modern cultural and medical history of madness, focusing on the long-twentieth century. It will consider a range of forms of mental illness and their treatments, including hysteria, shell shock, depression, psychiatry, pharmaceuticals and ECT. These subjects will be examined primarily from a cultural perspective through poetry, plays, films, television, visual texts, the media and prose fiction from a range of genres. Within this special topic, we will consider whether such cultural sources have reflected or shaped modern societal thought about mental illness. We will also pay attention to recent reinterpretations of historical ‘madness’ narratives and what these can reveal about the reception of the past.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of the unit students should have: 1. identified, analysed, and deepened their understanding of the conceptualisation and treatment of mental illness during the modern period; 2. understood the historiographical debates that surround the topic; 3. learned how to work with primary sources; 4. developed their skills in contributing to and learning from discussion in a small-group environment.

Teaching Information

Weekly 2-hour seminar Access to tutorial consultation with unit tutor in office hours

Assessment Information

2-hour unseen written examination (summative, 100%)

The examination will assess ILOS 1-4 by assessing the students’ understanding of the unit’s key themes, the related historiography as developed during their reading and participation in / learning from small group seminars, and relevant primary sources. Further assessment of their handling of the relevant primary sources will be provided by the co-requisite Special Topic Project (HIST 13003)

Reading and References

Baker, C., et al., Madness in Post-1945 British and American Fiction (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). Cross, S., Mediating Madness: Mental Distress and Cultural Representation (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). Foucault, M., Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, trans. Richard Howard (Tavistock, 1971). Harper, S., Madness, Power and the Media: Class, Gender and Race in Popular Representations of Mental Distress (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). Stiles, A., Popular Fiction and Brain Science in the Late Nineteenth Century (Cambridge University Press, 2011). Porter, R., Madness: A Brief History (OUP, 2003).