Honors | Ideas & Experience I (HON)
H211 | 13761 | Gareth Evans


MW 2:30-3:45pm
HU 108

“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
and treated.

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, then, has
less to say about psychology or medicine than it does about
religion, moral philosophy, and the social and political
implications of madness and melancholy.

Reading
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, Timothy Bright, Robert Burton, Erasmus, Marsilio Ficino,
Galen, Hildegard of Bingen, Hippocrates, Ruth Padel, [Pseudo]
Hippocrates, Seneca, Johann Weyer. 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.,
essays by Jonah Lehrer and Louis Menand, and a debate between
Christopher Lane and Nassir Ghaemi about, among other topics, the
present and future of DSM IV.