Saturday, August 25, 2018

Through the Looking Glass: Women and Mental Illness

"Who in the world am I?
Ah, that's the great puzzle"

Alice in Wonderland

Course Overview

In this section of Monsters and Disability, we will explore "The Monstrosity of Women and Mental Illness." Following a social constructionist approach to gender and disability, this seminar will unpack a range of genres and media for how women have been made to be figures of madness. Consequently, we will utilize affect and trauma theory to study how women are also literally made mad by the sexist and ableist roles they are made to play. Taken together, the mad woman has become a recognizable monster in a variety of media.

In the first half of the semester, we engage in disability in print media. We begin by reading the verse of John Donne from the play (turned film) "W;t" alongside Arthur Frank's "The Wounded Storyteller" to see how illness can function as a call to stories; narratives of chaos, restitution, and questing. Next, we turn to comics to see how sexuality and madness of abuse, cancer, dying, mania and depression are expressed through the interplay of text and image. Later, we examine the prose of memoirs and novels which show how crip individuals strive use narrative to explore the construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction of their sense of self. 

In the second half of the semester, we will examine disability and film. We will explore how in fantasy films young women who just don't think like the rest are brought through trials of divergence, through rabbit holes, and left deep in the woods of depression, suicidal ideation, and undeath. In horror, women are victims who must survive the traumas of slavery, silence imposed by a threatening ableist world, and men who simultaneously desire their innocence and want to see them suffer.


Selections from the Reading List

  • J.J. Cohen, “Monster Culture (Seven Theses)” (PDF)
  • A. Frank, Wounded Storyteller (1997)
  • M. Nichols (dir), Wit (2004)

  • E. Forney, Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo and Me (2012)
  • Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, Harley Quinn: Joker Loves Harley (2017)
    • The New Batman Adventures, 1.21, “Mad Love” (1999)
    • WhatCulture Comics, “10 Worst Things The Joker Has Ever Done to Harley Quinn”
    • Batman: the Animated Series, 1.56, “Harley and Ivy” (1993)
    • Shippers Guide to the Galaxy, “Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy Rebirth – Update”
  •  Jason Aaron, The Mighty Thor: Death of Thor (2018)

  • E. Clare, Exile and Pride (1999) 
  • M. Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night (2004) 
  • M. Russo, If I Was Your Girl (2016) 
  • J. Mangold, Girl, Interrupted (1999) 
    • Garland-Thompson, How We Look, “Social Relationship” & “Beholding”

Fantasy Film

  • N. Burger (dir.), Divergent (2014) 
    • R. Schwentke (dir.), Allegiant (2016)
    • T. Solomon, Far From the Tree, “Son” (AW) 
    • Snyder & Mitchell, Cultural Locations of Disability, “the Eugenic Atlantic"
  • Disney, Alice in Wonderland (1951)
    • N. Willing (dir), Alice (2009) 
    • T. Solomon, Far From the Tree, “Schizophrenia” (AW) 
  • S. Myer, Twilight: New Moon (2009)

Horror Film

  • J. Demme (dir.), Beloved (1998) (AW)
    • J.B. Bouson, “The Dirtied and Traumatized Self of Slavery in Beloved” (2000)
    • A. Cvetkovich, Depression: A Public Feeling
  • M. Night Shyamalan, Split (2017)
    • T. Solomon, Far From the Tree, “Disability” (AW) 
    • T. Solomon, Far From the Tree, “Crime” (AW)
  • J. Krasinski, A Quiet Place (2018)
    • T. de Cartagena, Grove of the Infirm



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