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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 in 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, class, gender, and sexuality shaped how “mental illness” has been conceptualized and treated in American culture. Using sociological and historical research, as well as popular culture such as films, novels, and television, we examine the paradoxes of asylums and their role in a pivotal century in America.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
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Sociology 397AM: Asylums, Madness, and Mental Illness in American Culture