Spring 2009

The Literature of Madness

Listed in: English, as ENGL-53


Dale E. Peterson (Section 01)


A specialized study of a peculiar kind of literary experiment-the attempt to create, in verse or prose, the sustained illusion of insane utterance. Readings will include soliloquies, dramatic monologues and extended “confessional” narratives by classic and contemporary authors, from Shakespeare and Browning, Poe and Dostoevsky to writers like Nabokov, Beckett, or Sylvia Plath. We shall seek to understand the various impulses and special effects which might lead an author to adopt an “abnormal” voice and to experiment with a “mad monologue.” The class will occasionally consult clinical and cultural hypotheses which seek to account for the behaviors enacted in certain literary texts. Three class hours per week. Requisite: Several previous courses in literature and/or psychology. Instructor consent required. Open to juniors and to sophmores with consent of the instructor. Spring semester.