Honr 2100
Modern Legacies: The History of Madness as Language
Fall 2007

MWF 11-11:50
LA 030

Instructor: Christa Albrecht-Crane, Ph.D.
Teaching Assistant: Jared Colton
E-mail: and
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 rhetorical skills.

Required Texts
Please purchase the following books at the UVSC bookstore:

1.   Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Idiot. Trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. New York, Vintage Books, 2001. ISBN 0375702245.

2.   Foucault, Michel. Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. New York, Vintage Books, 1988. ISBN 067972110X.

3.   Kafka, Franz. The Metamorphosis and Other Stories. New York: Dover Publications, 1996. ISBN 0486290301.

4.   Porter, Roy. Madness: A Brief History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. ISBN 0192802674.

5.   A number of essays and texts that will be available on the class web page. More information is forthcoming in class.

Course Objective in This Section
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? Harmony? God?

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 against you. 


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 read.  

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 discussions. 

Please be 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.

You must complete all class assignments in order to receive a passing grade.  Full details about assignments will be forthcoming. 



Reading quizzes:


4 Response Papers (average)


Final Paper


Final Exam 



Classroom Etiquette
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.


Students with Disabilities
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.


Academic Honesty
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.

The consequences 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.


Contacting 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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