ENGL 509B 001 Rhetoric of/and Mental Health

2019W Term 2
Instructor: Dr. Judy Segal
Class Meetings: Wednesdays, 1:30 – 4:30 PM

It is a fact well established that mental health has become a major focus of clinical, institutional, professional, academic, media, interpersonal, and individual attention. Because so very much of the understanding and experience of mental health and illness have a discursive element, often a very strong one, it is not surprising that rhetoricians are among the scholars who have weighed in on their complexities and meanings. The lead article in the inaugural issue of the journal, Rhetoric of Health and Medicine (2018) was J. Fred Reynold’s “A Short History of Mental Health Rhetoric Research (MHRR)—and a special issue of the journal on the rhetoric of mental health is forthcoming. This is what the call for submissions to that special issue looked like:
MHRR attends to the rhetorics of neuroscience, medicine, and psychiatry in connection with their cultural warrants; places judgments of in/sanity in rhetorical-historical context; follows mental health categories and diagnoses through clinical, professional, and personal settings; considers representations of mental health in medical and professional documents as well as popular media; and connects rhetorical appeals to strategies of activism and advocacy (http://medicalrhetoric.com/cfp-special-issue-of-rhm-on-mental-health/).
Clearly, studies of mental-illness discourses are interdisciplinary, and the theoretical frameworks of interest to the course come not only from rhetoric itself (Carol Berkenkotter, Kimberly Emmons, Jordyn Jack, Lucille McCarthy, Jenell Johnson, Amy Koerber, Cathryn Molloy, and others) but also from Philosophy (Ian Hacking on Multiple Personality Disorder), History (Andrea Tone on Anxiety); Anthropology (Emily Martin on Bipolar Disorder), Psychotherapy (Gary Greenberg on Depression), and Psychiatry (Allen Frances on psychiatric diagnosis itself), as well as other disciplines. This year, Historian of Science, Anne Harrington, published Mind Fixers: Psychiatry’s Troubled Search for the Biology of Mental Illness.
This course will cover a range of theories, methods, and perspectives, attending especially to what, in a field of complex problem(atic)s, is most saliently discursive/rhetorical—and why it matters that it is.