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HIST 48005: Madness and the Asylum in the US


Instructor ILS 59500: GIS for Humanities and Social Science Research
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HIST 48005: Madness and the Asylum in the US

Typically offered Fall Semester

Instructor: Dr. Yvonne Pitts

*Open to all students. H credit possible.*

This course explores madness as a historical concept that has evolved over time. In the eighteenth century, people attributed “madness” to demonic possession. Compare that definition to today’s mainstream scientists and doctors, many of whom attribute mental disorders to neuro-biological causes. Various behaviors, from seizures to homosexuality, have been categorized as symptoms of mental disorders. Indeed, insanity explained moral and sexual deviancy and criminality. Treatments changed dramatically too, ranging from “rest cures” and “moral therapy” to transorbital lobotomies and the cornucopia of pharmaceuticals used today.
The course engages primary source research, evidentiary method, and historical scholarship from medical, social, and legal perspectives, including how disability, race, and sexuality have shaped historical perceptions of insanity.

This course is an upper-level interdisciplinary history course and is crosslisted with the Critical
Disability Studies minor. Class size allows for in depth discussion.  Your consistent engagement
and participation are essential.