Course Description

Worrying about what’s normal and what’s not is an endemic feature of our culture. Is my IQ above average? What about my height? Should I be feeling this way? Is there a pill for that? People seem to have always been concerned with fitting in, but the way of describing the general run of practices and conditions as “normal” is a rather recent phenomenon; testament to the influence that modern science has had on how we understand and organize ourselves as a society. Offering a broad historical overview of the ways that physical traits, intellectual ability, and social behavior came to be scientifically delimited and measured, this course will introduce students to the theories, techniques, and tools that were used to distinguish the normal from the pathological and the deviant for the past 200 years. We will read Lombroso on born criminals and Krafft-Ebing on sexual perversion; learn about intelligence tests and developmental milestones; and consider the kinds of people these efforts brought into being. In addition to lecture and class discussions, the course includes close engagement with a diverse historical archive: scientific and medical writing, clinical case studies, diagnostic instruments, and patient narratives.

Course Outline

Required books
Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason (Vintage Books, 1988). ISBN 978-0679721109 (Any edition would work)
Sigmund Freud, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (Basic Books 2000; ISBN 0465097081). Or another edition based on James Strachey’s translation.
Stephen J. Gould, The Mismeasure of Man (W.W. Norton, 1996) ISBN 978-0393314250
Peter D. Kramer, Listening to Prozac (Penguin Books, 1997) ISBN 978-0140266719
Steve Silberman, Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity (Avery Publishing, 2016) ISBN 978-0399185618


Online registration deadline: Thursday, March 24, 5 pm CT.
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