Undergraduate Course: Literature, Reading, Mental Health (ENLI10383)
|School||School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures
||College||College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate)
||Availability||Not available to visiting students
|Summary||This course examines the relationship between literature and a range of mental health issues. Its primary interest is in the figuration of mental distress, from diagnosable states of acute depression to the implication on mental health of life-events including loneliness and bereavement. The course also tests the correspondence between literature's ability to figure the inner life and the experience of silent reading as itself a feature of that life. During the course, students will examine matters including the spectacle of mental health, the challenges of writing about the inner life, the genres of such writing, the question of mental health therapies especially psychoanalysis and their relation to writing and reading, and questions concerning the aesthetics of mental illness not least in the light of Swinburne's assertion that 'Nothing which leaves us depressed is a true work of art' (1867).
The approach throughout will primarily be literary, that is to say will prioritise attentive critical reading of the texts. But reading will also have a conceptual basis in the broad history and theory of mental health. Students will be introduced to a range of psychological models in classes and in directed reading, including those of psychoanalysis, and to debates about psychology v psychiatry, the categorising of mental illness across time, the historically contingent nature of therapies, and of ideas about what the opposite of mental illness might be.
The association between creativity and madness is ancient. But the entanglements of literature, the experience of reading, and states of 'mental health' are far more diverse. This course examines a range of literary writing, and one autobiography, to explore a variety of mental conditions and topics of mental health as they have appeared in writing from Shakespeare to the present: from murderous insanity to depression; from shell-shock to bipolarity, from life events including loneliness and bereavement to a figurative sense of history itself as a narrative of madness. The module is particularly interested in the languages of interiority; in narratives of 'redemption' and how these draw on established literary and cultural tropes; in the nature of literary forms as they are driven by particular conceptions of mental health/life; and in the question of what it means when we say that we found a book 'depressing'. Paying particular attention to the sustained tragi-comedy of writing about mental health, we will think carefully about the ethics of representation, the moral problems of talking about the figuring of mental health, as we will consider the idea of reading and mental activity itself. The textual construction of mental health, how a reader might understand the dividing line between healthy and unhealthy, will be explored in a course that examines the peculiarly intimate relationship between narrative, metaphor, and the mind; between mental health and what can be said in words about it; between mental health, the strange intimacies of reading, and the exceptional territory of literature.
On the basis of students' preparatory reading, seminars will be used to discuss the topics above in relation to the set texts. In order to fully prepare for these seminar discussions, students will be required to meet in advance in smaller 'autonomous learning groups' to produce material which will be presented to the class in a variety of forms (written reports posted to the course v.l.e., informal contributions to class discussion, or more formal verbal presentations during the seminar). Active preparation for and participation in class discussion is required, and will be assessed as a part of the student's overall performance on the course.
The structure of reading and analysis on the course is broadly comparative: students will be asked to explore the similarities and differences between the set texts, and examine the various types of analysis made possible by the critical and theoretical modes of reading to which they are introduced. The guided examination of the similarities and differences between the range of texts and approaches studied will help students to develop the analytical skills and knowledge that will be assessed in their essays.
The course is assessed by two essays, one to be completed by Week 9 of the course and one to be written during the exam period, and an assessment of students' participation in class and their autonomous learning groups. Written feedback will be provided on each element of assessment, and further oral follow-up feedback from the tutor will be available for anyone who would like it.
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2021/22, Not available to visiting students (SS1)
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20,
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Additional Information (Learning and Teaching)
Plus one hour per week for autonomous learning.
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
||Learning Journal of 2,500 words: 40%
Final Essay of 3000 words: 60%
||Detailed written feedback will be provided on all assessment tasks, and students will have the opportunity to arrange follow-up face-to-face meetings with the course organiser to elucidate and expand upon issues raised there.
|No Exam Information
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- Construct original, clear and coherent arguments about literature's figuring of a range of mental health topics and narratives
- Analyse literary texts using recognised literary critical methodologies to substantiate and illustrate those arguments
- Extrapolate, evaluate and assess ideas from a range of non-literary sources in order to bring them to bear on their analyses of mental health in literature
- Evaluate the ways in which conceptions of mental health as represented in literary writing have changed and/or remained constant from the early-modern period to the present
- Present orally the results of research undertaken individually and as part of a small group, respond judiciously to such research undertaken by others, and critically evaluate the importance of such material for an understanding of the chief themes of the course
|Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf (1925) |
Good Morning, Midnight, Jean Rhys (1939)
Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison (1952)
The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath (1963)
The Elected Member, Bernice Rubens (1969)
Ceremony, Leslie Marmon Silko (1977)
Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
Girl, Interrupted, Susanna Keysen (1993)
Don¿t Let Me Be Lonely, Claudia Rankine (2004)
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
||As an outcome of having studied this course, students will benefit from having developed a range of personal and professional skills commensurate with the range of SCQF Level 10 characteristics:
Knowledge and Understanding: students will have had the opportunity to demonstrate their detailed knowledge of the specialised field of literary depictions of mental health as well as their critical understanding of a range of the principal concepts of literary analysis in relation to the course material;
Applied Knowledge, Skills and Understanding: in their work for class discussion, presentations and formal assessment tasks, students will have been able to practice the application of these theories and concepts in their construction of arguments about the course material;
Generic Cognitive Skills: in completing assessed essays and class presentations, students will have practiced identifying, defining, conceptualising and analysing complex problems and issues germane to the discipline;
Communication: through participating in these tasks students will also have demonstrated the ability to communicate ideas and information about specialised topics in the discipline to an informed audience of their peers and subject specialists;
Autonomy and Working with Others: students will also have shown the capacity to work autonomously and in small groups on designated tasks, develop new thinking with their peers, and take responsibility for the reporting, analysis and defence of these ideas to a larger group.
|Additional Class Delivery Information
||one 2-hour seminar per week for 10 weeks; plus one autonomous learning group per week - at time to be arranged
|Keywords||Literature,reading,mental health,depression,loneliness,bereavement,mental illness
|Course organiser||Dr Patricia Malone
Tel: (0 131 6)50 8618
|Course secretary||Ms Sheila Strathdee
Tel: (0131 6)50 3619