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Course1106: Woman and Mental Illness: Clinical-Cultural Histories

Course Title-Woman and Mental Illness: Clinical-Cultural Histories

 Instructor- P. Radhika

 Course Dates- Mid-May (to be announced)


 Undoubtedly the ‘mad woman’ has been an important subject and trope within clinical and cultural imaginations in the West. These imaginations have been extensively documented and theorised within scholarship: Michel Foucault’s seminal work showed the eighteenth century as a period of the pathologisation of madness, bringing it under the purview of medicine (1965); Elaine Showalter argues that madness emerges as a ‘female malady’ in 19th century within the medical and cultural realms—be it the ‘Ophelias’ of Shakespeare or the ‘Augustines’ of the neurologist Charcot (1985). In response to the discourse of pathology, there have been attempts to ‘retrieve’ the ‘mad woman’ and ‘restore’ her subjectivity by both women writers (Gilman 1899; Plath 1971, 1981) and feminist critics (Gilbert and Gubar 1980; Showalter 1985). These critiques suggest that the medical and cultural realms have constructed her if not in oppositional, then definitely in divergent ways. As against the discourse surrounding the ‘mad woman’ in the West, the questions that the course will ask are: How do we understand the construction of the ‘mad woman’ in post-colonial contexts like India, given that such a category was beginning to be thought of with the establishment of ‘lunatic asylums’ in the mid-eighteenth century. Was there a similar or different production of the ‘mad’ subject here? What were the narratives around her that were beginning to be written, both in the clinical and cultural realms?


 The course will specifically look at the region of Princely Mysore State that houses a mental health institute (the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, better known as NIMHANS) that goes back to the 1832 and where medicalisation of psychiatry begins in the late 19th-early 20th century. It will inquire into the trajectory of psychiatry in NIMHANS that shaped the imagination of and practice of mental health in India given that NIMHANS was chosen as the national institute that set up the first post-graduate training in psychiatry. Mysore is specially interesting for producing a remarkable set of popular cultural texts—novels by Triveni in the 1950s and cinema directed by Puttanna Kanagal in the 1970s—revolving around women with 'psychological disorders' that are not only central to a Kannada cultural imaginary but show an alternate entry point to understanding the ‘mad woman’.


The course raises conceptual issues of how to think woman, mental health and mental illness today and arrive at methodologies to address clinical and cultural representations. The course will be conducted in 3 modules over a period of 3 weeks. The entire course credit is 2. Participants have the option of taking a combination of any 2 modules, amounting to 1 credit.


Please find below a tentative list of readings.


Week 1-Module 1


Day I. Thinking Madness


Primary Reading

 From Michel Foucault Madness and civilization; A history of insanity in the age of reason; New York: Vintage Books, 1965, “Preface” and “The Great Confinement” pp. ix-64 Link Found


 Suggested Reading

 Foucault, Michel. History of madness Editors- Khalfa, Jean: Translators- Murphy, Jonathan; Khalfa, Jean. London: Routledge, 2006 Link Found


Foucault, Michel. Abnormal: lectures at the College de France, 1974-1975 Editors-Marchetti, Valerio;Salomoni, Antonella;Trans-Burchell, Graham; New York: Picador, 2003



Day II. Thinking Woman

 Primary Reading

 Sandra Harding “Rethinking Standpoint Epistemology: What is "Strong Objectivity"?” Link Found

 Donna Haraway “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective”  In The Feminist Standpoint Theory Reader : intellectual and political controversies, eds- Harding, Sandra  New York: Routledge, 2004  Link Found        


 Suggested Reading

 Sandra Harding “Introduction-Standpoint Theory as a Site of Political, Philosophic, and Scientific Debate” Feminist Standpoint Theory Reader Link Found

 Dorothy E. Smith “Women's Perspective as a Radical Critique of Sociology”  Feminist Epistemologies, eds- Alcoff, Linda; Potter, Elizabeth. New York: Routledge, 1993 Link Found

 Toril Moi. “What is a Woman” in What is a Woman? And other Essays Link Found


 Day III. Woman and Madness

 Screening of Films Jane Eyre & Wide Sargasso Sea


Day IV. Woman and Madness

 Primary Reading

 From Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar Mad Woman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. Yale UP, 1979 Chapters 2 and 10


 From Elaine Showalter The Female Malady: Women, Madness, and English Culture, 1830-1980. New York: Penguin, 1985. Introduction & Chap 2

 Discussion of Film/Story


Suggested Reading

 Nancy Tomes “Feminist Histories of Psychiatry” in Porter and Micale ed., Discovering the History of Psychiatry

 Phyllis Chesler from Women and Madness Four Walls Eight Windows 1972


 Week 2-Module 2


Day V. The Indian Clinic

 Waltraud Ernst. Mad Tales from the Raj. Chapter 1 “Madness and the Politics of Colonial Rule.” pp. 17-52 Link Found

 ----- “European Madness and Gender in Nineteenth-century British India” in The Society for the Social History of Medicine Link Found


 Suggested Reading

 Waltraud Ernst “Feminising madness - Feminising the Orient: gender, madness and colonialism, c. 1860-1940’, in S. Kak and B. Pati (eds), Exploring Gender: Colonial and Post-colonial India (New Delhi: Nehru  Memorial and Museum Library, 2005), pp. 57-92 Link Found



 Sanjeev Jain “Psychiatry and Confinement in India” in The Confinement of the Insane eds. Roy Porter and David Wright Link Found

 M.V. Govindswamy Lectures and Writings (Selections)

 “Cardiozol Treatment of Schozophrenia” and Allied States in Indian Patients.” pp.156-162 Link Found

 “Need for Research in Systems of Indian Philosophy and Ayurveda with Special Reference to Psychological Medicine.” pp.192-202. Link Found

 M.G.Ramu and B.S.Venkataram

“A Critical Study of the Classification of Unmaada Pratibha: AIIMH Journal, pp.123-30 Link Found

 D.D.Chaturvedi “Aetiology (Nidana) of Mental Diseases in Ayurveda.” Pratibha: AIIMH Journal, pp.131-135


 Suggested Reading

 P.Bilimoria et al “Lost Souls, Troubled Minds: The Medicalisation of Madness in Mysore State during the British Raj” in Traditions of Science eds. P.Bilimoria and M.Sridhar Link Found

 S.K. Ramachandra Rao. Encyclopedia of Indian Medicine: Clinical Examination and Diagnostic Methods; Development of Psychological Thought in India 1962 Mysore Publishing


Day VII. Session 1: Symbolic

 Primary Reading

 Margaret Whitford. “Luce Irigaray’s Critique of Rationality” in Feminist Perspectives in Philosophy eds. Morwenna Griffiths and Margaret Whitford Link Found

 From Margaret Whitford Luce Irigaray: Philosophy in the Feminine. Lon & NY: Routledge, 1991. Chapter 3: “Rationality and Imaginary” Link Found


Suggested Reading

 Bruce Fink, From The Lacanian Subject. Princeton University Press, 1997

 Luce Irigaray: A Reader (Selections)

 Sigmund Freud “Dream Interpretation”


Day VIII. NIMHANS: Reading Case Records

 Lady Mockett



Suggested Reading

 Freud’s Cases


 Week 3-Module 3

 Day IX. Women’s writing: The psychological novels, 1950s

 Session 1: Reading and Discussion

 Triveni’s novel Doorada Betta  (Distant Hill Trans., Vimala Rao, Mysore: Triveni Pub, 1997)

 Triveni’s novel Sharapanjara  (Cage of Arrows Trans., Vimala Rao, Mysore: Triveni Pub, 1997)


Suggested Reading

 Selections from Triveni’s novel Bekkina Kannu (Cats Eyes, n.d.)

 Day X. Cultural Representation: Visual Culture

 Chistopher Pinney “Epilogue: The Recursive Archive” in Photos of the Gods

 Laura Mulvey “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”


 Suggested Reading

 Griselda Pollock “What's Wrong with the "Images of Women?"

 Day XI. Cultural Representation: Film Screening & Discussion

 Doorada Betta (Siddalingiah, 1973)

 Sharapanjara (Puttanna Kanagal, 1971)

 Ranganayaki (Puttanna Kanagal, 1981)



 Day XII. Faith Healing as the Non-clinical Site

 James Siegel Naming the Witch

 Lecture by Dr.Milind Wakankar


Course1106: Woman and Mental Illness: Clinical-Cultural Histories

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