History | Mental Illness in America
J400 | 3008 | Dwyer

Above section open to majors only
Above section open to undergraduates only

How have definitions of mental illness changed over time in the
United States? What treatments were considered most effective in the
nineteenth century? How many of these continued to be popular in the
twentieth? What have the mentally ill themselves said about their
struggles with psychic demons?  To what extent have cultural
preconceptions about mental illness shifted from the early
nineteenth-century to the present?  To what extent have they
remained the same?

To tackle these questions, we will look at a variety of sources,
including two texts (Gerald Grob's, "The Mad among Us:  A History of
the Care of the Mentally Ill in the United States" and Jack
Pressman's, "The Last Resort:  Psychosurgery and the Limits of
Medicine"), a number of first-hand accounts of mental illness from
the nineteenth- and twentieth-century United States, and films from
the 1920s through the 1960s.  By the end of the semester, each
student will have written a lengthy, original research paper, which
draws heavily on primary sources.  The class serves as a capstone
seminar for history majors.