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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Special Topics- Asylums, Madness, and Mental Illness in American Culture


This course uses the rise and fall of the asylum movement to examine shifting ideas about "mental illness" and its treatment, from the mid-19th century to the deinstitutionalization movement of the 1970s. Born of a utopian spirit dedicated to healing minds broken by the modern world, insane asylums devolved into "theaters of madness" where "lunatics" were stigmatized and warehoused. Race, gender, class, and sexuality shaped how mental illness has been conceptualized and treated over a pivotal century in American culture. Using sociological research and popular culture - such as films, novels, and television - we examine the asylum as a type of social control, and mid-20th century criticisms of asylums as "total institutions."
Course Details

Summer 2021

May 17, 2021 - Jun 25, 2021
Janice Irvine
Base Cost: $1,780 ($445/credit)
Term Fee: $47
Start date: May 17, 2021
End date: Jun 25, 2021
Last day to add: May 21, 2021
Last day to drop: May 21, 2021
Last day to withdraw: Jun 09, 2021