Dowling College CRN 93470        Senior Seminar ASC 4189C          

Professor Christian Perring

The Culture of Madness - ASC 4189C 0

CRN:      24910/24992

Duration:             Jan 04, 2016 - Jan 28, 2016


Tentative syllabus.


Required Books:

Otto Wahl: Media Madness: Public Images of Mental Illness.  Rutgers University Press, 1995.

Stephen Hinshaw: The Mark of Shame: Stigma of Mental Illness and an Agenda for Change.  Oxford University Press, 2006.


Suggested Reading

Sander Gilman: Seeing the Insane.  John Wiley 1982.  Republished with new afterward by University of Nebraska Press, 1996.

Lynn Gamwell and Nancy Tomes: Madness in America: Cultural and Medical Perceptions of Mental Illness Before 1914.  Cornell University Press, 1995.

Danny Wedding.  Movies and Mental Illness: Using Films to Understand Psychopathology (Third Edition).  Hogrefe Publishing, 2009.

Lawrence Rubin (Editor): Mental Illness in Popular Media: Essays on the Representation of Disorders.  Mcfarland, 2012.


Required Movies

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, directed by Milos Forman.  1975.

Girl, Interrupted, directed by James Mangold.  1999.

Suggested Memoirs

An Unquiet Mind, by Kay Redfield Jamison.  1997

Prozac Nation, by Elizabeth Wurtzel.  1995.

Darkness Visible, by William Styron.  1989.


Internet resources

Wikipedia: List of films featuring mental disorders

NAMI Blog: The Top 10 Movies about Mental Illness

Movies and Mental Illness Blog

Goodreads list of Memoirs of Mental Illness


Course Description.

This course will examine the representation of mental illness in popular culture.  It will cover a broad range of culture, including movies, memoirs, novels, visual arts, music, TV dramas, TV news, newspapers, magazines, weblogs, and internet videos.  It will be structured by addressing several related questions: How are mentally ill people portrayed in popular culture? What aspects of those portrayals are stigmatizing?  When are mentally ill people portrayed as dangerous or blameworthy for their behavior?  Which representations are humane and fair, and which deserve criticism?


Learning Outcomes

Students should develop and practice the following skills:

·         Analyzing and describing popular culture in careful detail

·         Assessing popular culture for stigmatizing portrayals of mental illness

·         Assessing popular culture for ways it highlights the responsibility of mentally ill people for their actions


Required Work

·         Students will need to read the 2 required textbooks, view and discuss the 2 required movies, view and discuss another movie of their choice, and read at least one memoir of mental illness of their choice 

·         Students will need to do a presentation, including a recording of their voice.

·         Students will need to post to the Blackboard Discussion Board frequently, showing they have done the reading and viewing by discussing it carefully.  No late work is accepted on the discussion board.  You will write at least 4000 worrds.

·         Students will need to write one or more papers discussing the assigned material, developing their own ideas, and justifying them.  You will be writing at least 10 pages (2500 words) for your paper(s).

·         You will be writing at least 6500 words for the whole course.



·         Discussion board. 40%

·         Online tests. 20%

·         Final paper.  30%

·         Presentation. 10%


Work load.  In a 3-week session, I expect at least 4 hours of work each of the 17 official days of the course.


Grading.  This is a senior seminar, the capstone of Dowling College's Core program.  In this course, students are expected to display and refine their abilities of analysis and explaining ideas in discussion (written or oral) and in more formal papers.  So to get a satisfactory grade (C) you need to show that you have these abilities and can represent yourself as a successful graduate of our college.  To get a good grade (B) or excellent grade (A) you need to show that you have these skills in proportionately greater degrees; i.e., you need to do impressive work.


Prerequisites.  There are no specific required courses you need to have taken previously to take this course.  However, students who are especially interested in discussing and analyzing popular culture, understanding mental illness in a cultural context, and analyzing sociological trends will be well placed to take this course.  It will help if you have taken courses in media studies, psychology, sociology, ethics, film studies, or literature.  You will also need internet skills, and you need to be self-motivated.  You need to have the available time to do the necessary work.


Note: Online courses tend to have a high rate of students getting F grades or withdrawing before the end.  You need to examine and think carefully at the start of this course, before the end of Add/Drop whether this is the right course for you.  Students who are not interested in the topic, who are not self-motivated, who have major problems with procrastination, or who have ongoing crises that interfere with their work are not likely to get a satisfactory grade. 


Excuses.  Late submissions to the discussion board will be penalized.  You will not be able to submit online tests late. For the paper, the only excuses I will accept for late work are documented medical reasons for being unable to do it, or else a letter from Dowling's Dean of Students saying that you have a legitimate reason for being given the opportunity to hand in work late.


Final Deadline.  I will not accept any work after Jan 29, 2016.  No class Jan 18




Work Due


Jan M 4



T 5

Description of movie


W 6

Discussion board.

Chapters 1-4 of Media Madness. 

F 8

Discussion board.

Chapters 5 and 6 of Media Madness

M 11

Discussion board.

Chapters 7 and 8 of Media Madness.

T 12

Discussion board.  Online test on Media Madness

View One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

W 13

Discussion board.

Introduction, Chapter 1, and Ch 12 of The Mark of Stigma

R 14

Discussion board.

Chapters 2 & 3 of The Mark of Stigma

F 15

Discussion board.

View Girl, Interrupted

T 19

Discussion board.

Chapters 4 & 5 of The Mark of Shame

W 20

Discussion board.

Memoir of mental illness

R 21

Discussion board.

Chapters 6, 7 and 8 of The Mark of Shame

F 22

Discussion board.

Case of mental illness in popular culture.


M 25

Discussion board.

Chapter 9-11 of The Mark of Shame.

T 26

Discussion board.

Recent work on representation of madness

W 27

Paper due.


Thurs Jan 28

Online test on The Mark of Shame.