10:30 AM to 11:45 AM TR
Aquia Building 219
Section Information for Spring 2020
“Novel maladies: anxiety and depression in nineteenth-century British fiction”
How did mental disorders like anxiety and depression register in fiction before they had official diagnoses in the medical community? Characters who suffered from these separate but related disorders were called by a variety of terms: nervous, melancholic, hypchondriacal, splenetic, vaporous. Sometimes they were called nothing at all, and their illnesses registered as inchoate collections of symptoms: sleeplessness; isolation; “wasting”; paranoia; obsessive or intrusive thoughts. Not quite the madmen of Edgar Allan Poe’s imagination, these characters number among what we might call today the “worried well”: essentially functional and more or less in touch with reality, but hampered by overwhelming sadness, loneliness, and chronic worry. This course will explore depictions in fiction of mental disorders that fall short of psychosis but that are or become determining forces—shaping characters’ behaviors and choices, and often driving or complicating the outcomes of their stories. Novels we read may include works by Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and George Gissing. We will supplement these with some (minimal) contemporary medical writing, theory, and history.