English 12 Logistics:
The English Department will offer two three-trimester course options to seniors: Hitchhikers Guide to Insanity
Students will indicate their preferred course on course selection forms. While we will make every effort to accommodate student preferences, both scheduling conflicts and the necessity of maintaining a favorable student-to-teacher ratio inevitably prevent a small number of students from enrolling in their chosen English 12 course.
A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Insanity: Mental Illness as a Literary Trope
When doctors complain a novel or film depicts mental illness inaccurately, they often miss the point. While some works depict mental illness to improve understanding of the mentally ill, most focus on mental illness as a device by which to reveal what is silly or wise, bad or good, unhealthy or healthy. Our goal here is to explore what literary madness shows us about the world and ourselves — and how it does so. In some works, madness is a pitiable condition to which we are driven. In others, madness is our only sane response to the horrible or absurd. In others, madness is a nervous punch line — a way to dismiss what makes us uncomfortable. Who among us doesn’t know a story about a “crazy” ex boy- or girl-friend? In still others, madness is a mark of divine inspiration or genius. We’ve all heard of an idea is “so crazy it might just work.” While the British cherish mental illness domesticated as eccentricity, other cultures stigmatize mental illness as shameful. Finally, as Michel Foucault points out, cultures use insanity as a label by which to contain what they fear socially or politically. So, writing about insanity may be a response to political or social conflict. After all, in Russia dissidents once were hospitalized for their views and in America feminist discontent once was medicalized and treated.
Short texts will include such works as “Diary of a Madman” by Nikolai Gogol, “Ward Number Six” by Anton Chekov, “Cares of a Family Man” by Franz Kafka, “Bartleby the Scrivener” by Herman Melville, and “Porphyria’s Lover” and other poems by Robert Browning.
Longer texts will include such works as Ajax by Sophocles, Hamlet or King Lear by William Shakespeare, Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse, The Trial by Franz Kafka, Vladimir Nabokov – Despair or Pale Fire, Nightwood by Djuna Barnes, Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry, The English Teacher by R.K. Narayan, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, Darkness Visible by William Styron, Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, Regeneration by Pat Barker, American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night by Mark Haddon.
Films may include: Psycho, Marnie, A Clockwork Orange, A Beautiful Mind, and The Soloist.