English | Projects In Reading & Writing: The Cultural Politics of Mental Illness
W170 | 9294 | Kendall

TOPIC:			The Cultural Politics of Mental Illness
INSTRUCTOR:		Kara Kendall

9294		MWF		12:20pm – 1:10pm	BH 321

This class will explore the problem of defining (or even labeling)
what we commonly call mental illness.  On the one hand, a growing
body of scientific research indicates that biology does play a
significant role in conditions like schizophrenia and manic
depressive disorder.  On the other hand, some mental health
professionals and patients argue that psychiatry’s medical model
offers a limited—even misleading—view of these complex phenomena.
Rather than settling on one side or the other of this debate, we’ll
seek to understand the cultural implications and stakes of how
mental illness is understood and represented.  How does the concept
of mental illness enrich our understanding of the conditions it
describes, and how might it limit our perspectives?  How is mental
illness represented in popular magazines like People and films like
Monster?  How do people diagnosed with mental illness narrate their
experiences, and what are we to make of their reports?  Reading
assignments will present a wide variety of perspectives on these
issues, with authors ranging from psychiatrists to patients to
cultural theorists and historians.  We will also read about how to
write analytically, and students can expect regular quizzes on
readings from our composition textbook.  Writing assignments, which
will form the bulk of the course grade, will ask students to
construct arguments about how mental illness is represented in a
variety of media including memoir, film, and journalism.