HIST 471G4: History of Mental Health in the US

TR, 9:30-10:45
Fall 2021
Monroe 233

Jeffrey McClurken
Office:  GW 105
E-mail:  jmcclurk at
Office Phone:  x1475
Office Hours:  by appt
Twitter (@jmcclurken)


Course Description

This readings seminar will explore the history of mental health in the US from the 1600s to the present.  More broadly, this course is also a history of mental illness and mental institutions, of social constructions of mental illness and health, of treatment of those perceived to be mentally ill, and of the perceptions of mental illness and health in popular, legal, medical, and academic contexts.


Departmental Course Goals and Objectives

This course will help students build upon a range of skills, including the ability to make discipline-specific oral presentations to groups; the ability to utilize technological resources in research, data analysis, and presentation; the ability to communicate in a group setting; and the ability to read critically primary sources and modern authorities.  This course counts in the History major as a 400-level course.


Course Requirements

This class requires a research-based digital project, online writing, and a short presentation, but will largely be structured around class discussions of readings. Students are expected to attend all classes, read all assigned texts, post regularly to their blog and the class wiki, participate in class, and help lead two weeks of class discussions. Projects and other assignments are due at the start of class on the day they are due.  [Note that learning in a pandemic means that there may be times when you are feeling ill.  Stay away from class on those days and let me know what is going on so we can talk through options.]

A note about this semester and this class

This class is not the most important thing in your life.  It’s not the most important thing in mine. Don’t get me wrong, there’s much to learn here and I love and have so much fun exploring these topics with you and your classmates.  But take care of yourself.  Reach out to me if there are things in your life that end up taking precedence over this class.  Let’s talk about them.


In the Bookstore

Earley, Pete. Crazy: A Father’s Search through America’s Mental Health Madness. New York: Berkley Books, 2007.

Gonaver, Wendy. The Peculiar Institution and the Making of Modern Psychiatry, 1840-1880. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2018.

Grob, Gerald N. Mad Among Us. New York: Free Press, 1994.

Kaysen, Susanna. Girl, Interrupted. New York: Vintage Books, 1994.

Metzl, Jonathan. The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease. Boston: Beacon Press, 2009.

Other readings on Course WordPress site.


Discussions and Reading Questions

Students are expected to attend all classes having read the material and having prepared 2-3 questions or debate topics.  The questions—posted to LINK by 12:01 AM (at the latest) on class days—should be aimed at provoking class discussions on the reading.  [Since these are intended to help prepare you for class discussion, late questions will not be accepted.]

Class participation includes posting these questions and then actively participating in these daily discussions.[1]  Each of you will also be expected to co-lead group discussion with another person (or persons) during two weeks.  Discussion leaders need to meet with me ahead of time to talk about how to facilitate discussion.

Having trouble keeping up with the reading or adding to the discussion? The following blog posts by Dr. Caleb McDaniel of Rice University may be helpful in reading and in contributing to our discussions.



Weekly Resource Blog Posts

Create a new (or use a preexisting) WordPress site on Domain of One’s Own by Thursday, August 29.  Send me your blog URL. All semester, once a week (by Thursday), post a link to a digital resource, image, podcast, clip, article, document, TikTok, meme, blog post, etc., and write a brief (2-4 sentence) post summarizing it and its relevance to the course or your project.  These resources should be either on the theme of the week’s class discussion or about your paper topic.  In addition to helping you do research on your project, this work will also create a set of resources related to the history and current thoughts about mental institutions that we’ll use later in the semester.  Tag each of those posts with histmental2021.   [Don’t have a Domain of One’s Own account or need a refresher? See here.  Or the Digital Knowledge Center can help you get started.]


Mental Health Related Movie or Show Review

During week 12, we’ll be discussing movies/shows/popular culture depictions of US Mental Health.  By the start of Fall Break, pick a movie or show (these lists might be helpful if you get stuck: and, keeping in mind that you need to be able to find a copy of it to watch on your own.  [Everyone will need to have a different film or show, so you may want to pick yours earlier than Fall Break.]  Before class on November 9, post a 300-500 word digitally-enhanced (use images/clips) essay on your blog summarizing your film or show and explaining how it fits into our understanding of the history and memory of US Mental Health.

Research-Based Digital Project
You must create a research-based digital project on a particular aspect or topic of the history or memory of mental health in the US.  Your project should be based in primary sources, but should appropriately contextualize your topic within the historiography of the scholarly literature and within ideas and themes of the history and memory of US mental health as discussed in this seminar. You must cite all images, clips, facts, ideas, paraphrasing, and quotes, in footnotes and bibliography, using either Turabian (9th edition) or the Chicago Manual of Style (17th edition).  [For more details on citations, see the resource page created by Jack Bales, our amazing and recently retired Reference Librarian. Or you could just use Zotero.]

Digital Project Options — There are multiple modalities you can explore for the digital project.  One would be to create a digitally enhanced research essay (1500-3000 words) on your class WordPress site that takes advantage of the digital medium.  Another option would be to extensively annotate a set of web-based digital sources using a tool like A third would be to create a video documentary (10-15 minutes in length) on your topic.  If you have another idea for a digital project, set up a time to meet with me and discuss it.

1) A broad project topic (with tentative digital project option) and citations of ten significant primary and secondary sources are due by the start of class on Thursday, September 9 for my approval. Send via email.

— Note: this bibliography of narratives might be helpful in finding sources (though it is a bit dated and you will want to make sure you’re using US-based accounts):

2) A 250-300 word proposal plus annotated bibliography is due Thursday, September 23  Tuesday, September 28 at the start of class and should be posted to your blog (with the link emailed to me as well).  It should briefly outline a preliminary approach to your project and the topics likely to be explored, and should detail sources sufficient to write a major research project.  The annotated bibliography should include at least twenty sources. [Worth 5% of overall class grade.]

3) Finally, the digital project is due before the start of class on Tuesday, October 26 Tuesday, November 2 Thursday, November 4. Again, create a blog post introducing it and email me the link [Worth 25% of overall class grade.]

Digital projects will be assessed on content (including originality and quality and use of evidence, analysis, and sources), grammar, usability, presentation, citations, and overall effectiveness.  [As we discussed in class, regardless of modality, these should all include the use of primary sources about the history/memory of mental health in US, analysis that makes an argument or arguments that fits within (or responds to) the secondary scholarly literature, and use of the digital medium.]

Oral Presentation

At the end of the semester (either in the last week of class or during the exam period) everyone will make a 7-8-minute presentation summarizing her or his project and findings. [Worth 10% of final grade.]

Final Grades

Final grades will be determined based on class participation (including two weeks of co-leading discussion) (40%), on performance on the proposal (5%) and research paper/digital project (25%), on performance on the resource blog posts (10%), on the movie/show review (10%), and on the quality of the oral presentation on research (10%).  [Unsatisfactory mid-semester reports will be reported for anyone with a grade of D+ or below at that time.]  Completion of all assignments is required to pass the class.


      Grading Scale

A Unusual Excellence 93 or higher=A; 90-92=A-
B Distinctly Above Average 87-89=B+; 83-86=B; 80-82=B-
C Average Quality 77-79=C+; 73-76=C; 70-72=C-
D Below Average Quality 67-69=D+; 60-66=D
F Failure, No Credit 0-59=F


Honor Code

I believe in the Honor Code as an essential, positive component of the Mary Washington experience.  You should know that if you cheat or plagiarize in this class, you will fail, and I will take you to the Honor Council.  So, do not do it.  On the other hand, I also believe that having friends or family read and comment on your writing and projects can be extremely helpful and falls within the bounds of the Honor Code (assuming the writing and work itself remains yours).  If you have questions about these issues, then you should talk to me sooner rather than later.



The Office of Disability Resources has been designated by the university as the primary office to guide, counsel, and assist students with disabilities. If you receive services through the Office of Disability Resources and require accommodations for this class, please provide me a copy of your accommodation letter via email or during a meeting. I encourage you to follow-up with me about your accommodations and needs within this class. I will hold any information you share with me in the strictest confidence unless you give me permission to do otherwise. If you have not made contact with the Office of Disability Resources and have reasonable accommodation needs, their office is located in Lee Hall, Room 401.  They can be reached at The office will require appropriate documentation of disability.

Title IX Statement

Policy on Sexual and Gender Based Harassment and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence. Under Title IX and this Policy, discrimination based upon sex or gender is prohibited. If you experience an incident of sex or gender based discrimination, we encourage you to report it. While you may talk to me, understand that as a “Responsible Employee” of the University, I MUST report to UMW’s Title IX Coordinator what you share.  If you wish to speak to someone confidentially, please contact the below confidential resources.  They can connect you with support services and help you explore your options. You may also seek assistance from UMW’s Title IX Coordinator.  Please visit to view UMW’s Policy on Sexual and Gender Based Harassment and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence and to find further information on support and resources.

Stefanie Lucas-Waverly, M.S.
Title IX Coordinator
Fairfax House
1301 College Ave.
Fredericksburg, VA 22401
Phone: 540-654-5656


Confidential Resources

Talley Center for Counseling Services
Lee Hall 106, 540-654-1053

Student Health Center
Lee Hall 112, 540-654-1040

24-hr hotline: 540-373-9373

Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault (RCASA)
24-hr hotline: 540-371-1666


Recording Policy Statement

In this class, students may not make audio or video recordings of any course activity unless the student has an approved accommodation from the Office of Disability Resources permitting the recording class meetings. In such cases, the accommodation letter must be presented to the instructor in advance of any recording being done and all students in the course will be notified whenever recording will be taking place. Students who are permitted to record classes are not permitted to redistribute audio or video recordings of statements or comments from the course to individuals who are not students in the course without the express permission of the faculty member and of any students who are recorded. Distribution without permission is a violation of educational privacy law. This policy is consistent with UMW’s Policy on Recording Class and Distribution of Course Materials.

Food and Housing

Any student who has difficulty affording groceries or accessing sufficient food to eat every day, or who lacks a safe and stable place to live, and believes this may affect their performance in the course, is urged to contact the Office of Student Life (x1200) for support. Furthermore, please notify me (if you are comfortable in doing so). This will enable me to help connect you to those resources.


COVID-19 Expectations

All students are expected to adhere to the policies and expectations of the University to mitigate risk and support the health and safety of the UMW community. A comprehensive set of the current policies and expectations can be found at the COVID-19 information page and the policies page.

This includes the requirement that all unvaccinated employees, students and visitors are required to wear masks inside any university building and are strongly encouraged to do so when outside in group settings.

The Fall 2021 preparedness plan ALSO stipulates that all employees, students, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status, must wear masks indoors in public spaces (which includes all classrooms, laboratories, meeting spaces, foyers and hallways, and auditoriums) through at least the first few weeks of the semester. Changes to this requirement will be communicated to the campus community by the COVID-19 Director (me) and updated at the university’s COVID-19 information page.

No food is permitted in classrooms and other instructional areas; drinks permitted in closed containers only and not in areas where expressly prohibited.

Failure to comply with UMW policies and expectations will result in disciplinary action consistent with the Student Code of Conduct.

Digital Knowledge Center

The Digital Knowledge Center (DKC), located in HCC 408, provides UMW students with peer tutoring on digital projects and assignments. Any student at the University can take advantage of the Center’s services by scheduling an appointment to work one-on-one or in a group with a student tutor. You can schedule a tutorial through EAB and at; while appointments are not required, they are recommended. Tutorials cover a wide range of topics related to common digital systems, technologies, new media, and tools used in courses at UMW. DKC tutors adhere to the UMW Honor Code during all appointments. They are available to provide guidance and advice, but they cannot create, produce, or edit work on a student’s behalf.

Help Desk (Computer Issues)

If you are having difficulties with Canvas or connecting to online University resources, seek assistance from the Help Desk:

Simpson Library

The Simpson Library provides access to important physical and online resources and spaces.  Computers, printers, scanners, and study rooms are available for students, faculty, and staff.  Research librarians are available to assist you via phone, email, chat, or face-to-face.

Online databases, research guides, and e-books are accessible off-campus by using your network ID and password.  An online interlibrary loan service is also available so that students can request books and articles not available at the Simpson Library.

Speaking Center

The UMW Speaking Center provides students support for speaking and communication assignments: presentations, debates, group presentations, interviews, leading class discussions, and more. You can schedule an online appointment on our website. Please ensure you are choosing the appropriate appointment type and date.

Writing Center

The UMW Writing Center offers assistance on all types of writing projects: reports, papers, cover letters and resumes, research projects, and citations. The Writing Center can also help you prepare for in-class essay exams and for standardized tests that include essays such as the Praxis I writing exam.

If you are an online, commuter or Stafford Campus student, you can schedule online or face-to-face appointments. Please ensure you are choosing the appropriate appointment type and date.


Topics & Readings

Week 1 – beginning Aug. 24 – What exactly are we studying this semester?

— Aug. 24 — Introduction

— Aug. 26 — Grob, Mad among Us: A History of the Care of the Mentally Ill, Preface (ix-xi), Prologue (1-3); Tomes, Art of Asylum Keeping, Intro to Paperback edition (ix-xxvii); Shorter, History of Psychiatry, Preface (vi-x) (online); INTRO TO SANDOWSKY ON DEPRESSION AND TONE ON ANXIETY; Bertolote, “The Roots of the Concept of Mental Health“; and text as well as Talk Tab).


Week 2 – beginning Aug. 31 – Overview(s) of US (& Other) Mental Institutions

— Aug. 31 – Grob, Mad among Us, Chapter 1-5 (1-128).

— Sept. 2 – Grob (Ch.1-5 continued); Shorter, History of Psychiatry, Chapter 1-2 (1-68)(online); Foucault, Madness & Civilization, Chapter 9 (241-278)(online).


Project topic & citations of ten significant sources due by start of class on Thursday, Sept. 9.


Week 3 – beginning Sept. 7 – The Origins of American Asylums and Psychiatry

— Sept. 7 – Tomes, Art of Asylum Keeping, TOC-187.  [Pay special attention to the historiographical discussion on 1-18.]

— Sept. 9 – Tomes, Art of Asylum Keeping, 188-329.


Week 4 – beginning Sept. 14 – Race, Mental Illness, and the Civil War Era

— Sept. 14 – Gonaver, The Peculiar Institution and the Making of Modern Psychiatry, 1-144; McClurken, Take Care of the Living, Chapter 5 (online).

— Sept. 16 – Gonaver, The Peculiar Institution and the Making of Modern Psychiatry, 145-190; Summers, Madness in the City, 1-12, 71-95; .

250-300 word project proposal (plus annotated bibliography of at least 20 sources) due Thursday, September 23  Tuesday, September 28 at start of class



Week 5 – beginning Sept. 21 – 19th-Century Female Reformers and Accounts of Women at Asylum

— Sept. 21 –Nellie Bly, Ten Days in a Mad-House (1887), 1-94 (in print version); Dorothea Dix Memorials – Massachusetts (1843), Memorial to Congress (1850), Maryland (1852).

— Sept. 23 – Geller & Harris, eds., Women of the Asylum – Foreword (xiii-xxviii), 1840-1865 (11-86), 1865-1890 (87-168) (online)


Week 6 – beginning Sept. 28 — Mental Institutions & Psychiatry in the 20th Century

— Sept. 28 – Grob, Mad among Us, Chapter 6-9 (129-248); Freud, “Origin and Development of Psychoanalysis” (1910), 207-223; Szasz, “Myth of Mental Illness” (1960), 346-351.

— Sept. 30 — No Class


Week 7 – beginning Oct. 5 – 20th Century Accounts of Women in Mental Institutions

— Oct. 5 – Geller & Harris, eds., Women of the Asylum –1921 to 1945(263-325) (online).

— Oct. 7 – Kaysen, Girl, Interrupted, 1-168.


Week 8 – beginning Oct. 12 –

— Fall Break – No Class Tuesday (10/12)

— Oct. 14 – Summers, Madness in the City, 190-246. [Discussion of research projects.]


Week 9 – beginning Oct. 19 – Changes in the Post-WWII Era: Deinstitutionalization, PTSD, & Therapy

— Oct. 19 – Grob, Mad among Us, Chapter 10-11 (249-311); Primary Source Readings on 20th Century developments, 369-420 (online).

— Oct. 21 – Summers, Madness in the City, 247-313.

Research Project due at the beginning of class on Tuesday, October 26 Tuesday, November 2 Thursday, November 4


Week 10 – beginning Oct. 26 – Race and Mental Illness in the Civil Rights Era

— Oct. 26 – Metzl, The Protest Psychosis, ix-128.

Oct. 28 – Metzl, The Protest Psychosis, 129-212.


Movie blog post due before start of class on Tuesday, November 9


Week 11 – beginning Nov. 2 — Psychopharmacology & treatment

— Nov. 2 – Election Day — No class — Project is due November 4 (but can be turned in before that).

— Nov. 4 – Tone, The Age of Anxiety (selections); Sadowsky, Empire of Depression (selections); Metzl, Prozac on the Couch (selections); Whitaker, Anatomy of an Epidemic, Forward and Chapter 1.


Week 12 – beginning Nov. 9 – Popular culture and depictions of mental health and its histories 

— Nov. 9 – Discussion of Movie/Show reviews.

— Nov. 11 – Discussion of Movie/Show reviews, cont.; Advertising and art (online).


Week 13 – beginning Nov. 16 – One Look at 21st-Century Mental Health Options

— Nov. 16 – Earley, Crazy, TOC-207.

— Nov. 18 – Earley, Crazy, 209-361.


Week 14 – beginning Nov. 23 –

— Nov. 23 – Readings to be announced based on sources collected by class over the semester and a chance to discuss anything we have missed.

— No Class Nov. 25 — Have A Good Thanksgiving!


Week 15 – beginning November 30

— Nov. 30 – Presentations

— Dec. 2 – Presentations


Exam Period – Thursday, December 9, 8:30-11 AM – Remaining Presentations & Discussion of Semester


[1] To that end, for each class students should also prepare some notes on the reading (parallels, problems, factual questions, reminders of past readings, connections to ideas from other classes or from “real life”) so that they have those points in front of them for the discussion.  Although I have no current plan to collect these comments, I reserve the right to do so at some point during the semester.