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Madness and Civilization

Semester and Year FA 2015
Course Number IDSEM-UG1782
Section 001
Instructor Yevgeniya Traps
Days F
Time 11:00 AM - 1:45 PM
12:00 AM - 12:00 AM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   HUM



“Much madness is divinest sense,” Emily Dickinson wrote, further observing that “much sense [is] starkest madness.” The poet insisted that the majority sets and enforces the standard by which sanity is evaluated, and we will take this notion as our starting premise. How are social standards for what is and is not normal set? How are they enforced? What is at stake in maintaining definitions of mental health? How have these definitions changed over time? What is the price of transgressing the boundaries of sanity? What might be the privileges conferred by madness? Using writing as a way of reading closely and thinking critically, students will produce three analytical and literary critical essays and a research paper, as well as present on a topic or issue connected to the course theme. Our readings may include works by Michel Foucault, Chester Brown, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Anne Sexton, Sigmund Freud, and Ken Kesey. We will also consider a number of visual works by artists like Yayoi Kusama and Henry Darger.


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Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)