Minds and Madness

Subject HPSC30019 (2015)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2015.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 3 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2015:

Semester 2, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 27-Jul-2015 to 25-Oct-2015
Assessment Period End 20-Nov-2015
Last date to Self-Enrol 07-Aug-2015
Census Date 31-Aug-2015
Last date to Withdraw without fail 25-Sep-2015

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 1 x 1hr Online lecture per week; 11 x 2hr workshops from week 2-week 12
Total Time Commitment:

170 hours

Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website: http://www.services.unimelb.edu.au/disability/


Dr James Bradley


Dr James Bradley


Subject Overview:

What is the mind? What does it mean for the mind to malfunction? And how should it be treated when this occurs? 'Minds and Madness' provides an historical over-view of responses to these questions by patients, medical practitioners and society as a whole. Once considered the seat of the soul, the human mind has been captured by science, reduced to a brain, 'a hard-wired' neural network. Metaphysical explanations of madness (theological and magical) have been superseded by scientific theories (neurological and material), thus reshaping our understanding and experience of madness. Therapies have transformed accordingly. In exploring these important issues, the subject will visit the spaces and places of 'Minds and Madness', including: the ship of fools, Bedlam, the asylum, the psychiatrist"s couch and GPs rooms, the battlefield, the operating theatre, and the padded cell. It will introduce students to a cast of thousands, including: the fool (from King Lear and elsewhere), Burton, Descartes, Locke, Pinel, Kraepelin, Cotton, Freud, Laing, Engel and Spitzer. It will analyse and critique changing conceptions of mental diagnoses. it will delve into the new world of our contemporary neurosciences. Finally, it will explore how historians have made sense of this story.

Learning Outcomes:

Students who successfully complete this subject will:

  • demonstrate a broad knowledge of the history and historiography of the historical and contemporary relationship between minds, madness and medicine;
  • synthesise, analyse and assess arguments about minds and madness, and contextualise these arguments within the broader realms of history and philosophy;
  • create effective arguments, backed up by convincing evidence, about the historical dynamics between minds, madness and medicine, and be able to express these to experts and interested non-experts alike;
  • develop high-level research skills, including the ability to extend your knowledge-base beyond subject materials, combining traditional library- and archive-based research with digital research;
  • engage with the world beyond the academy, through social media or other means;
  • develop effective communication and presentation skills (written and oral), and the ability to collaborate constructively within the classroom;
  • demonstrate ethical integrity in written work and classroom activities, including a deep ethical engagement with issues around mental health and illness.


A 500 word critical analysis, 12.5% (due week 5), a portfolio and 1500 word exegesis, 37.5% (due week 12) and a 2000 word essay or report, 50% (due in the examination period).

Hurdle requirement: students must attend a minimum of 75% of workshops in order to pass this subject. Regular participation in workshops is required. Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 10% per day; after five working days late assessment will not be marked. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked. All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.

Prescribed Texts:

Madness: A Brief History (R Porter) Oxford University Press 2003

Subject readings will be available online

Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Links to further information: http://hps.unimelb.edu.au/
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science

Download PDF version.