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TH254-30 Mad, Bad, and Sad: Madness and Cultural Representation

SCAPVC - Theatre and Performance Studies
Undergraduate Level 2
Module leader
anna six
Credit value
Module duration
18 weeks
100% coursework
Study location
University of Warwick main campus, Coventry
Introductory description


Module aims

This module explores the cultural history of madness through a variety of artistic forms. The module seeks to explore the relationship between psychiatric and artistic accounts of 'mad' experience. Through a close examination of texts, films, plays, and art, students will examine philosophical and political questions about the mind, the self, and experience. This module, therefore, aims to introduce students to the area of madness and representation. The module will primarily explore twentieth and twenty first century examples of theatre, film, and literature that seek to represent mental ill health. Students will explore a range of theoretical, philosophical, historical, sociological and medical texts that attempt to understand alternative experiences. Students will place these theoretical works in dynamic dialogue with performance practice that is concerned to explore madness through aesthetic practice. We will ask not only what is 'madness', but how and why one might choose to represent it. This module aims to offer students a rigorous introduction to the relationship between representation, pathology, and ethics.

Outline syllabus

This is an indicative module outline only to give an indication of the sort of topics that may be covered. Actual sessions held may differ.

Autumn Term
Week One: Introduction.
Week Two: The Looney Bin
Week Three: Therapeutic Communities
Week Four: Drugs and Treatments
Week 5: Race and Class
Week Six: Reading Week
Week Seven: Bodies
Week Eight: Mania
Week Nine: Bureaucracy
Week Ten: Essay Seminar and Small Group Tutorials. No Reading.

Spring Term

Week One: Delusions
Week Two: Realities
Week Three: Suicide
Week Four: Trauma
Week Five: Stigma
Week Six: Reading Week
Weeks Seven: Presentation Preparation
Weeks Eight, Nine and Ten: Presentations.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Students will have developed a number of personal skills in the course of this module. These include using personal initiative, identifying and evaluating personal learning strategies that are self critical as much as self reflective. Students will also develop group cooperation skills, including the ability to give and receive constructive critical feedback. Finally, they will develop their the ability to think laterally and demonstrate originality in problem solving, to express and communicate creative ideas and images, and the ability to initiate and sustain creative work, both group and solo.
  • Will have developed an advanced understanding of the relationship between artistic practices and madness through historical, sociological, theoretical, philosophical, and literary research. They will have a keen sense of the ethical demands of representing health, illness, and pathology, and demonstrate a thoughtful and imaginative response to these challenges in the presentation and essay. They will have acquired a wide ranging knowledge of the practices and practitioners working in this area. Students will also have gained a rigorous understanding of key concepts and movements covered in the module such as trauma, anti-psychiatry, and auto-pathography.
  • Students will develop their skills and academic training in the course of this module. They will further develop their ability to engage critically and analytically from different theoretic perspectives. They will explore theoretical concerns through practice, and vice versa, and will be able to synthesise findings in practical and written tasks. By the module’s conclusion students will have furthered their ability to interpret research and creative practice.
  • Students will have developed the advanced ability to utilise research tools and to articulate the relationship between critical theory and creative practice. They will also have enhanced their library and IT skills via detailed independent research. They will also be able to contribute research to small groups in effective presentations, to evaluate visual evidence and to develop advanced confidence in the ability to communicate complex material.
Indicative reading list

Jeff Adams, Documentary Graphic Novels and Social Realism (Bern: Peter Lang, 2008)
Richard P. Bentall, Madness Explained: Psychosis and Human Nature (London; Penguin, 2004)
Emile Durkheim, Suicide: A Sociology (London: Routledge, 1952)
Michel Foucault, 'Madness and Civilization (London: Routledge, 2001)
Arthur W Frank, The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, Ethics (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1995)
Erving Goffman, Asylums (London: Penguin, 1961)
Tom Heller et al (eds) Mental Health Matters: A Reader (Buckinghamshire: Open University Press, 1996)
Gail Hornstein, Agnes’ Jacket: A Psychologist’s Search for the Meanings of Madness (New York: Rodale, 2009)
Kay Redfield Jamison, Night Falls Fast (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2000)
E. Ann Kaplan, Psychoanalysis and Cinema (Abingdon: Routlegde, 1990)
R D Laing, The Politics of Experience and the Bird of Paradise (London: Penguin, 1967)
Darian Leader, Strictly Bipolar (London: Penguin, 2012)
Mary Luckhurst, 'On Infamy and Dying Young' in Theatre and Celebrity 1660-2000 (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2005)
David B Morris, Introduction and Chapter One in The Culture of Pain (London: University of California Press, 1991)
Roy Porter, The Faber Book of Madness (London: Faber and Faber, 1991)
Roy Porter, Madness: A Brief History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003)
Nicholas Ridout, Theatre & Ethics (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2009)
Elaine Showalter, The Female Malady: Women, Madness, and English Culture 1830-1980 (London: Virago, 1987)
Thomas Szasz, The Myth of Mental Illness, (London: Harper Row, 1972)
Fintan Walsh, ‘Therapeutic Dramaturgies’ in Theatre & Therapy (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2012)

Research element

Students are required to undertake independent critical research and have the opportunity to develop their own research essay projects as part of the assessments.


The module is interdisciplinary insofar as it is concerned with the intersections of the arts and health. Students will encounter critical reading from the humanities but also from medicine, psychiatry, and psychology.


The primary texts from this module are taken from the UK and the USA.

Subject specific skills

Students will gain experience in critical debate and argument. They will engage in high-level reading from plural disciplines and learn to synthesise and present their findings. They will develop their writing and presentation skills. They will attain a keen understanding of artistic form.

Transferable skills

Key transferable skills gained include developing an argument, presentation skills, comprehension, advanced level writing, research skills.

Study time

Type Required
Seminars 18 sessions of 2 hours (12%)
Tutorials 2 sessions of 15 minutes (0%)
External visits 1 session of 7 hours 30 minutes (2%)
Private study 256 hours (85%)
Total 300 hours
Private study description

Students are expected to undertake substantial preparatory reading and viewing each week which amounts to approximately 6 -8 hrs per week. In addition to this students have to prepare a 5000 word research project and a 30 minute presentation. The preparation time for each of these assessments is in the region of 80 hrs (or two weeks full-time work) spread over the course of each term.


No further costs have been identified for this module.

You do not need to pass all assessment components to pass the module.

Assessment group A
Weighting Study time
Essay 50%

Your first assessment is a 5000 word essay comprised of a plan, an annotated bibliography, and the essay itself. You will be given a choice of 5 essay titles to choose from. You will also have the option to create your own title

Assessed Seminar Presentation 50%

Your second assessment is a seminar presentation in small groups of 3. You will present for 30 minutes followed by a 5-minute question and answer session. These presentations will take place in weeks 8, 9 and 10 of Spring Term. You will be given a primary work to research at the end of week 5 and you will need to supplement this with significant independent critical research. You will receive a group mark for this assessment. Key texts may include 4.48 Psychosis, Girl, Interrupted, Lighter Than My Shadow, Sybil, Equus, Polar Bears, Mary Barnes, The Snake Pit, and Blue/Orange. All students are expected to read the set texts for all presentations.

Feedback on assessment

Written feedback sheets and one-to-one tutorials.


This module is Optional for:

  • Year 2 of UTHA-QW34 Undergraduate English and Theatre Studies
  • Year 2 of ULNA-R1WB Undergraduate French and Theatre Studies
  • Year 2 of UGEA-RW24 Undergraduate German and Theatre Studies
  • Year 2 of UHPA-R4W4 Undergraduate Hispanic Studies and Theatre Studies
  • Year 2 of ULNA-R3WA Undergraduate Italian and Theatre Studies
  • UVCA-LA99 Undergraduate Liberal Arts
    • Year 2 of LA99 Liberal Arts
    • Year 2 of LA92 Liberal Arts with Classics
    • Year 2 of LA73 Liberal Arts with Design Studies
    • Year 2 of LA83 Liberal Arts with Economics
    • Year 2 of LA82 Liberal Arts with Education
    • Year 2 of LA95 Liberal Arts with English
    • Year 2 of LA81 Liberal Arts with Film and Television Studies
    • Year 2 of LA80 Liberal Arts with Global Sustainable Development
    • Year 2 of LA93 Liberal Arts with Global Sustainable Development
    • Year 2 of LA97 Liberal Arts with History
    • Year 2 of LA91 Liberal Arts with Life Sciences
    • Year 2 of LA75 Liberal Arts with Modern Lanaguages and Cultures
    • Year 2 of LA96 Liberal Arts with Philosophy
    • Year 2 of LA94 Liberal Arts with Theatre and Performance Studies
  • UTHA-W421 Undergraduate Theatre and Performance Studies
    • Year 2 of W421 Theatre and Performance Studies
    • Year 2 of W421 Theatre and Performance Studies
  • Year 2 of UIPA-W4L8 Undergraduate Theatre and Performance Studies and Global Sustainable Development