Honors | Ideas & Experience I (HON)
H211 | 13460 | Gareth Evans
This class rests on the assumption that definitions of madness and
melancholy are, in Roy Porter’s words, “not fixed points but culture-
relative.” We’ll read 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’ll
seek to understand each account of madness and/or melancholy in the
context in which it was written. Everything we read was written long
before the days of asylums and psychiatry, Nietzsche and nihilism,
Freud and family therapy. The writers we’ll read, even those who
know of Oedipus, define madness in relation to love, genius, gender,
power, and the gods or God. We’ll consider, too, whether melancholy
was seen or should be considered a form of madness. We’ll look also
at how, or whether, those writers define madness and melancholy in
relation to reason, evil, or sickness. As you read, pay attention
to all of the following issues and questions:
•Imagery used to describe the mad or the melancholy.
•The behavior of the mad or melancholy.
•How writers define madness or melancholy.
•The response of the writer to the mad or melancholy.
•The response of others within the text to the mad or melancholy.
•Explanations of the cause or causes of madness or melancholy.
•Efforts to differentiate between types of madness or melancholy.
•Are madness and melancholy viewed negatively or positively?
•Are the mad or melancholic thought to have any control over their
madness or melancholy?
•Do or how do the writers think madness or melancholy might be
prevented or cured?
Erasmus, Praise of Folly (Penguin).
Euripides, Bacchae and Medea in Euripides, Ten Plays (Signet)
Plato, Phaedrus (Hackett)
Shakespeare, Hamlet (Arden).
Shakespeare, King Lear (Arden).
Excerpts on E-Reserve from work by the following writers: [Pseudo]
Aristotle, Robert Burton, Cicero, Ficino, Galen, Hildegard of
Bingen, Hippocrates, Ruth Padel, [Pseudo] Hippocrates, Seneca, Weyer.
The books for the course are available at Boxcar Books, 408 E. 6th
You’ll find the material on E-Reserve at:
The password for E-Reserve is folly
Note: You should have read all, I repeat all, of the book, play,
essay, or excerpt we are going to discuss before the first day on
which we discuss that book, play, essay, or excerpt.