Modern Legacies: The History of Madness as Language
Instructor: Christa Albrecht-Crane,
Teaching Assistant: Jared Colton
Office Hours: MWF 9-10, MW 1-2, and by appointment in LA 126F
Office Phone: 863-6286
Course Description (from the UVSC catalog)
This course provides Honors students with the opportunity to study an
extensive period of human history from an interdisciplinary perspective.
It examines Modern and Contemporary thought and culture through selected
works written between 1500 C.E. and the present. The focus of the class
will include at least one texts that adds diversity (for instance, in
ethnicity, class, or gender) to the cultural texts of the course. The
course draws from disciplines including but not limited to literature,
science, history, philosophy, and religion. It emphasizes close study of
primary texts, and develops strong critical thinking, writing and
Please purchase the following books at the UVSC bookstore:
Fyodor. The Idiot. Trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.
New York, Vintage Books, 2001. ISBN 0375702245.
Michel. Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of
Reason. New York, Vintage Books, 1988. ISBN 067972110X.
Franz. The Metamorphosis and Other Stories. New York: Dover
Publications, 1996. ISBN 0486290301.
Roy. Madness: A Brief History. New York: Oxford University Press,
2002. ISBN 0192802674.
number of essays and texts that will be available on the class web page.
More information is forthcoming in class.
Course Objective in
This particular section of the seminar will focus on how language works,
and how it functions in society. We will examine how language is used as
a way to organize and classify the world around us. Through the
"logical" reasoning of philosophy and science, various "authorities"
have attempted to define the nature, causes, and principles of reality,
knowledge, and human values. Moreover, language offers concepts, systems
of thought, that make is possible to think in the first place. This
"language of reason" has also been used to comfort, to organize, to
segregate, and to marginalize. Specifically, this class will look at
how, in the modern period, various writers and social scientists have
created the concept of "madness" linguistically, as a way to define what
it means to be human. Thus, "madness" should not be seen as a
pre-existing phenomenon, but rather as a concept created for particular
reasons, at a particular historical time.
Madness has preoccupied many different
disciplines--sociology, philosophy, psychoanalysis, psychiatry,
linguistics, history, and literature. They have all scrutinized madness,
and this class will explore some of their analyses. In fact, we all use
a language of madness to convince ourselves that we are sane and to
protect us from the seemingly unknowable. But what is the unknowable?
The Other? The abyss? Madness? Art? Chaos? Anarchy? Transcendence?
These and related issues will be
explored in a variety of texts that span the period from 1800 to the
present. We will read first-hand accounts of psychiatrists, social
scientists, historians and novelists. They all point to a paradox:
firstly, language always works by way of repression to organize and
order space, thus excluding other aspects of that space. Language thus
represses the Other, that is, madness. Secondly, any effort to give
voice to that exclusion will, in turn, continue to exclude because it
also uses language. Thus, we struggle with this central point: the
phenomenon of madness is in its essence silence that cannot be
said through language. Madness escapes language, but does it
disappear altogether? Can art liberate language from the rules and
regulations that reason imposes on it? What do the texts that we will
read tell us--directly or indirectly--about language and madness?
Attendance is mandatory. Small group activities and class
discussion will be emphasized. Research shows that what occurs
during class is an important part of the learning process so
your attendance is necessary. If you miss class, talk to a
classmate or two and get their notes, then talk to me if you
have specific questions about what we covered. Excessive
absences (more than three) will lower your grade. Missing more
than six classes will result in your failure of the
class. Attendance will be taken at the start of every class
period, and late arrivals and early departures will count
Our class sessions will be structured almost exclusively around
discussions. It will be more enjoyable for all of us (and
you’ll do better) if you (1) attend class regularly, (2) do the
required reading, and (3) be prepared to discuss what we’ve
In this course
you are expected to be an active learner and to take
responsibility for your work. You should contribute
meaningfully to our discussions on a daily basis. Your
participation will be affected if you miss class. Consider that
a good participation grade reflects consistent active
participation throughout the semester. “Heaping up”
participation efforts one week in order to make up for low
participation at other times will not help your overall score.
In order to encourage as much participation from as many
students as possible, I will make every effort to insure that as
many people as possible get to be heard during our class
advised that this component of the course is quite important and
that I take it very seriously. I strongly discourage “fluff”
contributions and disruptions. I reserve the right to penalize
students who, in my judgment, make repeated and obvious efforts
to undermine quality discussion and/or to bolster their
participation score with irrelevant comments.
If, at the end of this semester, you have earned a C in
this class, it means you did what was minimally expected of you:
you came to all classes and did all the work. If you want a
B or an A, you must not only come to all the classes
and do all the work, but you must do the work with shining
effort and attention.
complete all class assignments in order to receive a passing
grade. Full details about assignments will be forthcoming.
Response Papers (average)
Cell phones, beepers, pagers, etc. are to be turned off before
you come to class. Refrain from using your cell phone for text
messaging at all times while you're in class. If this section
meets in the computer classroom, I insist that during class time
students do not check and respond to personal email and/or
instant messaging services. Class members should treat each
other with respect and a productive attitude.
If you have any disability impairing your ability to
successfully complete this course, please contact the
Accessibility Services Department (room BU-145). Academic
Accommodations are granted for all students who have qualified
documented disabilities. Services are coordinated with the
student and instructor by the Accessibility Services Department.
The Statement from the UVSC “Students’ Rights and
Responsibilities Code“ reads: “Each student is expected to
maintain academic ethics and avoid dishonesty in all its forms,
including but not limited to, cheating and plagiarism, and
fabrication as defined hereafter.”
With respect to
this particular class plagiarism refers to knowingly copying
another person’s work or ideas and calling them one’s own or not
giving proper credit or citation. This covers copying sections
or entire papers from printed or electronic sources as well as
handing in papers written by students for other classes or
purchasing academic papers. Plagiarism and cheating are not
only dishonest but they cheat you out of learning. You must
submit your own work in this course.
for academic dishonesty are grave. The penalty for a first
offense in an F for the assignment; a second offense
means that you fail the course and will be reported to
the Department Chair and to Student Advising. If you have any
questions about plagiarism, please talk to me.
I encourage you to visit my office, whether it is to address a
specific concern or simply chat about the course. If you cannot
meet during my office hours, I am happy to schedule another time
to meet with you but you will need to talk to me ahead of time.
The best way to
contact me outside of office hours is through e-mail. You may
call me at my office during office hours.
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