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The Western History of Madness from the Bible to DSM-V

Semester and Year SP 2018
Course Number IDSEM-UG1961
Section 001
Instructor Orna Ophir
Days F
Time 12:30 PM - 3:15 PM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   HUM, PREMOD



Madmen, lunatics or the insane, have seen an extraordinary variety of responses and attitudes coming their way across the centuries. Whether seen as a natural phenomenon or as socially constructed, “madness” was defined and treated, examined and controlled, diagnosed and “cured” according to the spirit of the time. This course will follow the varied social imageries of “madness” throughout Western history, from the Bible to the contemporary and controversial  Diagnostic Statistical Manual  (DSM) in its most recent 5th edition. Alongside primary texts by Hippocrates, Avicenna, Philippe Pinel, and Sigmund Freud as well as secondary texts by Michel Foucault, Ian Hacking, Edward Shorter, and Elaine Showalter, among others, students will acquaint themselves with first-person accounts of “madness” and its different forms of treatment. The latter range from the lunatic asylum, through electric-shock treatments and lobotomies to “pills and prisons” or also therapy and psychoanalysis. The course will explore the interaction between the historical and social, scientific and political as well as economic factors that have shaped the views of “madness” and its treatment while paying ample attention to the history of ideas that informed and, often, framed them.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)