Understanding severe manic-depression as a kind of madness

Course Description


 “Much madness is divinest sense,” Emily Dickinson wrote, further observing that “much sense [is] starkest madness.” The poet insisted that the majority sets and enforces the standard by which sanity is evaluated.  This course will introduce a variety of topics in the psychology of madness through lectures, discussions, and readings.  Evil alter-egos, soul-sucking vampires, and narrative thrillers have roots in nineteenth-century literature. Monsters, mad scientists, and secret identities rose in the public imagination in the context of many changes, including changing conceptions of class, gender, and what it meant to be an individual.  At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the sciences of the mind —psychiatry, psychoanalysis, clinical psychology, and especially psychopharmacology and neuroscience—claim tremendous scientific authority and exert enormous influence.

This course explores varied clinical descriptions and models of madness.  It also explores madness as a key cultural symbol, representing profound threats to order and rationality.


There will be a mid-term paper and a final paper assignment and students will write brief essays on some of the readings and/or do class presentations at some of our meetings.  These requirements, in connection with the final paper, will be discussed in class. 


Students will be evaluated for receiving credit in the class based on their written work and participation in class discussions, thereby demonstrating mastery of important concepts and research presented in class and in the readings.  Each student’s progress towards earning credit will be documented and that information will be provided to each student at least twice during the class:  mid-term and at the end of the semester.




:           Lecture:          Introduction to the Course: Defining “Madness”


Lecture :  Assessing “Reality Testing” as a Measure of Madness

Discuss Readings:  #1  Touched with Fire:  Manic Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament     By Kay Jamison





Lecture:   The DSM 5 & ICD 10

Discuss  Reading #2 :  Roy Porter   Madness: A Brief History, chapters 2 & 3



Lecture:  Psychotic Depression & Manic Psychosis

Discuss Reading #2:  Roy Porter   Madness: A Brief History, chapter  4



Lecture:  Schizophrenia

Discuss Reading #2:  Roy Porter   chapter Madness: A Brief History, chapter  8

& #3  The Dynamics of Creation   By Anthony Storr 


Discuss Reading #4  Albert Rothenberg  “Creativity and Madness”


And see:


#5 Schizophrenia, an Overview  National Institute of Mental Health

#6  Mukherjee, “Runs in the Family” 

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