Madness and Literary Culture

Ref: C3528774

This course will look at a range of 'mad, bad, and sad' characters in literature from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Characters with what would now be recognised as mental health issues have appeared in literature for centuries, used by writers to demonise the medical profession, reflect the negative influence of society and to challenge gender ideologies. This course will consider a number of texts and consider the representation of mental illness and the wider social context of the text.

Course aim

This course, 'Madness and Literary Culture' will explore how the representation and understanding of mental health has featured in a selection of literature from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries..

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • demonstrate an understanding of literature which uses manifestations of madness and melancholy in character portrayal.
  • understand the way writers use contemporary anxieties surrounding perceived transgressive behaviour in their characterisations.
  • be conversant with formal aspects of fiction such as narrative structure, point of view, omniscient and unreliable narrator.
  • demonstrate an understanding of the way mental health is used in fiction to challenge social ideologies of the period.
  • formulate a reponse to the studied texts.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • It is expected that students will read the suggested texts ahead of the course.

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning

What else do I need to know?

  • Students will need to bring along copies of the studied texts to the classes. These can be in hard copy or on an e-reader.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • The texts: Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret; Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper; Siegfried Sassoon's Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (extracts provided), Rebecca West's The Return of the Soldier, Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar.

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course

Download full Course information sheet

Madness and Literary Culture

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This course has been cancelled.


You can if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2017
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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