This is an online course. There is no ‘live’ section and there are no classroom components.

Instructor: Professor James Miller

The course examines the history of Madness from the 18th century to the present, in both western Europe and North America. The course will trace changing ideas and definitions of Madness over this time period, including changes in how the causes of madness have been explained, how it has been treated, and how it has been understood, both as a personal experience and as a social question. Subjects to be studied will include:

  • The social significance of madness in the 18th-century
  • Changing attitudes to treatment in the Enlightenment era
  • The rise and fall of the asylum movement
  • The medical treatment of madness
  • The creation of psychiatry as a branch of medicine
  • Representations of madness in culture (film, fiction, art)
  • The relationship (if there is one) between Madness to Genius
  • Individuals’ experience of being mad, or of being considered mad, and how they represented those experiences through such means as art and personal memoirs


The course is designed to ensure that, in total, its requirements–in terms of preparation, readings and viewings, research, and assignments–take up no more time than would a regular course consisting of three hours in the classroom and several hours per week of preparation time outside of it. There are, however, important differences from many other courses. The most important one is this: the structure of this course requires that you participate in a variety of ways EVERY week. Each week you will be required to engage with a variety of sources and materials such as readings, viewing of material online, and short introductory lectures by the instructor.  You will also show that you have done so through various assignments such as content-based quizzes and contributing to online discussion group. It will not be possible to miss weeks and then ‘catch up’ at some later point.


Technical requirements:

You must have access to high speed internet on a device equipped with the latest versions of Adobe Flash Player and Adobe Acrobat (both free downloads). You should be comfortable using the cuLearn learning management system, either from using it in other courses or familiarizing yourself with it at the beginning of this one. It is recommended that you use either Firefox or Google Chrome to access cuLearn.


  • Weekly quizzes based on the required readings
  • Weekly contributions to discussion group
  • One short writing assignment (1000-1500 words each)
  • Regular (at least 500 words every two weeks) reflections on a subject or theme covered in the previous two weeks
  • Final assignment. A short (1000-1200 words) essay that will build on your regular reflections on a particular subject or theme and which will pull together how your learning, thoughts, and interpretations have developed over the course of the class

If you have any questions please contact me at