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ENGLISH 5B: WISE: Mental Health and Literature, Mid-century to Present

Is there something wrong with us, or with our world? Rising rates of clinical depression and other conditions have rendered mental health a pressing cultural concern, especially for young adults, leading institutions of higher education to expand resources to support student needs. But we have not always thought about mental health the ways we do today. In this course we read landmark literary texts from midcentury to present that both reflect and shape cultural constructions of mental health. From Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye (1970) to Elizabeth Wurtzel's Prozac Nation (1994)to Ottessa Moshfegh's My Year of Rest and Relaxation (2018), we examine how literature destabilizes would-be binaries between mental health and mental illness. How do intersectional identity factors such as gender, race, and class inform whose mental illness is deemed deserving of treatment and whose is instead criminalized? Honing our critical writing skills by learning to employ the tools of cultural criticism more »
Is there something wrong with us, or with our world? Rising rates of clinical depression and other conditions have rendered mental health a pressing cultural concern, especially for young adults, leading institutions of higher education to expand resources to support student needs. But we have not always thought about mental health the ways we do today. In this course we read landmark literary texts from midcentury to present that both reflect and shape cultural constructions of mental health. From Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye (1970) to Elizabeth Wurtzel's Prozac Nation (1994)to Ottessa Moshfegh's My Year of Rest and Relaxation (2018), we examine how literature destabilizes would-be binaries between mental health and mental illness. How do intersectional identity factors such as gender, race, and class inform whose mental illness is deemed deserving of treatment and whose is instead criminalized? Honing our critical writing skills by learning to employ the tools of cultural criticism, feminist theory, and critical race studies, we also engage selections from Doris Lessing, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, Esmé Weijun Wang, and others. Traversing short stories, essays, drama, poetry, memoir, and novels, this timely multi-genre course equips us to historically contextualize and meaningfully respond to the current mental health crisis.nNote: This Writing-Intensive Seminar in English (WISE) course fulfills WIM for English majors. Non-majors are welcome, space permitting. Enrollment is by permission (contact vbeebe@stanford.edu). For more information go to https://english.stanford.edu/writing-intensive-seminars-english-wise.
Terms: Aut | Units: 5 | UG Reqs: WAY-A-II, WAY-ED | Repeatable 2 times (up to 10 units total)
Instructors: Mukamal, A. (PI)
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