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Deviant Bodies, Unruly Minds: Disability and ‘Madness’ in Contemporary French Culture

Module Code: FR327
Module Name: Deviant Bodies, Unruly Minds: Disability and ‘Madness’ in Contemporary French Culture
Module Coordinator: Dr Susannah Wilson
Not running 2018-19
Module Credits: 30

Module Description

How are disability and mental health issues perceived in France today? What are the prevailing attitudes towards those whose bodies or minds do not conform? How are these issues represented in contemporary culture? During the course of this module, we will explore all of these questions and more, by looking at various representations of disability and mental health – in films, fiction, photography, life-writing, testimony and web-based campaigning and activism - against the backdrop of recent political debates about how disability and mental health issues are defined and perceived. You will also be introduced to key theories about disability from the US and the UK, where the study of disability is much more established. We will pay particular attention to the movement from the so-called 'medical' model of disability, in which disability is seen as an individual, bodily impairment to be cured or cared for, to a 'social' model of disability, in which disability is seen as resulting not from impairments in themselves but from social and environmental barriers, both literal and in terms of peoples' attitudes. We will also examine the links between physical disability and mental health, and especially the impact of recent moves towards redefining mental health issues as 'disabilities' – not just legally, but also amongst psychiatric service-users and grassroots mental health associations, as well as some psychiatrists. This redefinition, as we will see, is entailing a renewed questioning of the medical model of mental health too, and especially of the psychiatric system, with its emphasis on diagnosis, institutionalisation and medication. We will explore whether a social model of mental 'distress', rather than 'madness' or even 'mental health', is more in keeping with the growing call, in the 21st century, for equality, social inclusion and citizenship for all.

Assessment Method:

1. Assessed work, consisting of two assessed essays, each of 4,000-4,500 words in length
2. A formal three-hour examination
3. A formal two-hour examination plus one assessed essay of 4,000 – 4,500-words in length