Honors | Madness and Melancholy (HON)
H213 | 31451 | Gareth Evans
“Madness and Melancholy” rests on the assumption that definitions of
madness and melancholy are, in Roy Porter’s words, “not fixed points
but culture-relative.” While we will read some contemporary
discussions of how depression and other mental disorders are treated
and defined, the bulk of our reading will consist of literary,
medical, and philosophical accounts of madness and melancholy
written from the classical period to the early seventeenth-century.
Our reading will be comparative and we will seek to understand each
account of madness and/or melancholy in the context in which it was
written. Instead of agreement, we will find, in every period, debate
and disagreement about how madness and melancholy should be defined
While depression and madness are now typically medicalized and
pathologized, in other periods, writers, scientists included, took
an approach to melancholy and madness that was as much, or more,
religious, ethical, or philosophical as it was medical. We will see
madness and melancholy sometimes judged positively rather than
negatively. We will read writers defining madness and melancholy in
relation to the bodily humors, to gender, genius, the gods or God,
love, parents, power, the planets, reason, and sin. More often than
not, these same writers are more concerned with what it means to
live the good life than they are concerned with what it means to be
well. Frequently, the writers we read are critical of the societies
in which they live and of most of the people in those societies,
including those who are wealthy and have power. The class has less
to say, then, about psychology or medicine than it does about
religion, moral philosophy, and the social and political
implications of madness and melancholy.
HON H 213 is a writing intensive class. According to the rules of
the university, to pass a writing intensive class a student must
write a number of essays that add up to at least 20 double-spaced
pages in length. Said 20 pages does not include the revised essay
each student must also write during the semester.
NOTE: Before you enroll in the class, you should be aware that every
semester some students find some of the work we read difficult to
comprehend and interpret. You should also be aware that I place a
great deal of emphasis on the quality of student writing. While it
is perfectly possible to get an A in the class, you are going to
have to earn it.
Plato, Phaedrus (Hackett)
Shakespeare, Hamlet (Arden).
Shakespeare, King Lear (Arden).
Excerpts on E-Reserve or on the web from work by the following
writers: essays by and excerpts from: [Pseudo] Aristotle, Timothy
Bright, Robert Burton, Erasmus, Marsilio Ficino, Galen, Hildegard of
Bingen, Hippocrates, Ruth Padel, [Pseudo] Hippocrates, and Seneca;
Medea and Bacchae by Euripides; the following selection of work that
illustrates issues central to the contemporary debate about the
diagnosis and treatment of depression: entries from the Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV), “The bright
side of being blue: Depression as an adaptation for analyzing
complex problems” by Paul W. Andrews and J. Anderson Thomson, Jr.,
comments on that essay by Ed Coyne and Jerry Hagen, essays by Jonah
Lehrer and Louis Menand, and a debate between Christopher Lane and
Nassir Ghaemi about, among other topics, the present and the future
of DSM IV.
•Two 6-8-page essays and two 8-10 page essays, one of which is a
revision of one the 6-8 page essays. 75% of the final grade.
•Attendance and participation in discussion and in-class activities.
A series of writing assignments that are either posted at Oncourse
or brought to class. All of the assignments are designed as building
blocks for each essay you will write. 10% of the final grade.
•A 5-minute presentation of the argument of your final essay. 5% of
the final grade.
•A graded exercise designed to display your ability to find and use
information in IUCAT, WorldCat, the online Modern Language
Association International Bibliography, and a number of other online
databases. 10% of the final grade.
Books are available at Boxcar Books, 408 E. Sixth Street,
Bloomington, IN 47408.