Comparative Literature 424: Literature for Clinical Psychologists;
Prof. Silke-Maria Weineck
Literature belongs to the most complex expression of human conditions. It can serve as an eloquent record of interior states; as richly detailed observation of behavior, motivation, and interpersonal relations; and as a sustained self-reflection on the nature of language in construing our images of self and other, body and mind. This course was designed to introduce pre-health students to the tools of literary analysis and to reflect on ways in which the skills of reading literature are also the skills of listening closely to idiosyncratic discourses that rely on metaphor, symbol, and narrative structure. Its rationale was that a good part of diagnostic dialogue is in nature hermeneutic, and that the study of literature, beyond simply introducing health professionals to a variety of diverse world views and modes of representation, imparts skills vital to understanding human utterance in general and self-representation in particular. Readings juxtaposed literary texts that concerned disease and deviance in the wider sense with texts that described clinical narratives. Among the goals of the course were to investigate the cultural determinants and confines of dichotomies such as "sane" and "insane," "rational" and "irrational" and to apply insights gained from such explorations to more specific questions involving identity, gender and race.