Gloom, Glory, and Tons of Copper Sulfate: Representations of Mental Health in Literature (LIT4378.01)

Paul La Farge

How does literature, with its imaginary worlds, approach delusion? How does it, itself in a sense unreal, represent people who (to use psychiatrists’ jargon) have ‘broken’ with reality? In this class, we will read works by and about people who have suffered (and enjoyed) mental health disturbances, and we’ll consider some of the many ways in which the languages of fiction relate to, represent, co-opt and transform the idiolects of (sorry, more jargon) neurosis and psychosis. Reading will include work by Robert Burton, Daniel Paul Schreber, Sigmund Freud, Nikolai Gogol, Charlotte Brontë, Italo Svevo, Jean Rhys, Michel Foucault, Rivka Galchen, Han Kang, and Caitlyn R. Kiernan.


Learning Outcomes:
• To consider, from both a theoretical and a practical point of view, some of the ways in which literature both represents and draws from ideas of ‘mental illness';
• to use works of literature to put some of these representations of mental disturbance into a historical and cultural context;
• to write both critically and creatively about these subjects.


Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Prerequisites: Applicants to this class should provide a brief (1 paragraph) statement of interest, and a writing sample which may be of any genre, but must be no more than 5 pages long. Submissions must be submitted via this form, and must be received by May 5, 2022.
Corequisites: Students are required to attend all Literature Evenings, Bennington Translates, and Poetry at Bennington events this term, commonly held at 7pm on most Wednesday evenings.
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 4
T/F 2:10PM - 4:00PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 15
Course Frequency: One time only

Categories: All courses , Literature , Fully In-Person
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