Breakdown: Madness, Self, Fiction

Course offered in Fall 2018

This course is a study of madness, melancholia, and psychological distress as experienced and accounted for from first-person literary perspectives. How should an individual’s declaration of spiritual health or illness by understood? What critical tools can literature bring to the study of the soul’s suffering as professed in the first person? We focus on testimonies of mental strife in a transnational/historical frame, reading across different literary movements (romanticism, realism, high modernism, emergent contemporary genres like the neuronovel). Literary selections are contextualized via ancient treatises on afflictions of the soul, as well as major works from continental philosophy and psychoanalytic theory. Authors include Aristotle, Büchner, Dostoevsky, Freud, Gogol, Hoffman, James, Kesey, Kristeva, Tolstoy, Rhys, & others.

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