English 4400 Literature and Mental Illness

English 4400: Literature and Mental Illness W 18:00 ­ 20:50
Professor Kiki Benzon

In this course, we’ll examine the ways in which mental illness ­­broadly speaking, from neurosis to neuropathology­­, has informed literary texts and other narrative expressions. While our readings will be drawn from various cultural moments and contexts, we will concentrate on twentieth ­century literary work and the psychoanalytic and psychiatric principles associated with them.

1) Presentation (30%): Students will sign up for one 60­minute presentation (lecture and discussion). Presentations must include analysis of the assigned text and make considerable use of secondary critical/theoretical material. General topics are provided, but please see me in advance if you’d like to pursue another angle for your presentation.
2) Research Paper Proposal (15%): Describe and justify the research subject of your final paper. Proposals (3­4 pages, plus bibliography) will be electronically submitted to me a few weeks before the final class, when we will workshop them together in groups.
3) Research Paper (40%): 15­20 pages, in MLA format, submitted electronically (PDF) by April 17th.
4) Attendance and Participation (15%)

Required Texts (Bookstore)
Danielewski, Mark Z. House of Leaves
Kane, Sarah. 4.48 Psychosis
Nabokov, Vladimir. Pale Fire
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar
Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway

Other Readings
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark and King Lear
Pdfs and web links will be provided to access short fiction, poems, non­fiction excerpts, and essays.

Reading and Assignment Schedule

Week 1: Jan. 7

Introduction to the course

Week 2: Jan. 14

“Mental Medicine and Organic Medicine” and “Madness and Culture” from Mental Illness and Psychology (Foucault)
“Medical Model of Madness: Emergence of Mental Illness” from Deviance and Medicalization (Conrad and Schneider)

Chapter 6 “The Disease Concept Applied to Psychiatric Conditions Without Known Neuropathologies,” Chapter 7 “Manic­Depression: A Disorder of the Affective Realm,” and Chapter 8 “Schizophrenia” from The Perspectives of Psychiatry (Paul McHugh and Phillip Slavney)

Week 3: Jan. 21

The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark / King Lear (Shakespeare)

Week 4: Jan. 28

Mrs. Dalloway (Woolf)

Week 5: Feb. 4

Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958; 128 mins.)

Week 6: Feb. 11

Short Stories: “The Depressed Person” (Wallace) / “The Fall of the House of Usher” (Poe) / “Memoirs of a Madman” (Gogol) / “A Clean, Well­Lighted Place” (Hemingway)

Poems: “Il Penseroso” (Milton) / “Elm” (Plath) / “It was not Death, for I stood up” (Dickinson) / “The Author’s Abstract of Melancholy” (Burton) / “Mental Case” (Owen) / “In A Dark Time” (Roethke)

Week 7: Feb. 18

Reading Week: no class

Week 8: Feb. 25

Pale Fire (Nabokov)

Week 9: Mar. 5

The Bell Jar (Plath)

Week 10: Mar. 11

Persona (Bergman, 1966; 85 mins)

Week 11: Mar 18

House of Leaves (Danielewski)

Week 12: Mar. 25

House of Leaves (Danielewski)

Week 13: Apr. 1

4.48 Psychosis (Kane)
Paper Proposal Due (15%)

Week 14: Apr. 8

Excerpts from: Prozac Nation (Wurtzel) / An Unquiet Mind (Jamison) / Darkness Visible (Styron) / Noonday Demon (Solomon)
Paper Workshopping

Grade scale: A+ 91% to 100%; A 85% to 90%; A­ 80% to 84%; B+ 77% to 79%; B 73% to 76%; B­70% to 72%; C+ 67% to 69%; C 63% to 66%; C­ 60% to 62%; D+ 55% to 59%; D 50% to 54%; F <50%.

Course Policies: Absence from class must be supported by a doctor’s note to avoid attendance penalty. Papers handed in after the due date will be subject to a reduction of half a letter grade per day late, for up to four days. An “A” paper, in other words, will receive an “A­” if it is handed in one day late. After four days, the paper will receive a zero. All papers must be written in accordance with MLA rules for citation and style. Plagiarism is theft; if plagiarism is suspected, the matter will be investigated and, if found guilty, the student will fail the course and may face further penalty from the university.