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Navigating Psychopathology (IL002)



On this module students will engage in a critical consideration of psychiatry and psychopathology (mental ill-health) drawing on a variety of perspectives (in the past this has included neuroscience, neuroimaging, psychiatry, literature, psychoanalysis, philosophy and history). A central aim of the module will be to describe and explore the tension between a purely neuroscientific conception of mental ill-health and the brain, and subject-centred conceptions of mental ill-health and the mind.

According to the mental health charity Mind, every year over a quarter of the population of Britain will experience a mental health problem. Despite being such a pervasive phenomenon, stigma, misunderstanding and ignorance are widespread. In the course of the module we will consider how changes in the way mental illness is studied and viewed can have wider effects. For example, people tend to think that if a mental illness has a physical component (e.g. appears on scans, or is associated with a particular drug treatment), then that somehow legitimises its being a disorder. This will be explored in relation to the creation of new diagnoses and the corresponding medicalization of areas of life. Given the influence of normative judgements on diagnosis, a background question is whether it seems plausible that even a neuroscience of the future will provide a complete picture of psychopathology.

The module aims to enable students to:

  • Understand and use concepts from different disciplines that interface around psychopathology and mental health, and recognise the different uses of evidence and argument;
  • Become aware of different ways of conceptualizing mental disorder and the critiques of those conceptions;
  • Acquire an appreciation of how mental illness has been viewed from a variety of perspectives;
  • Critically reflect on the evolution of their own ideas, beliefs and values on psychopathology and on the experiences of people with mental ill-health;
  • Communicate effectively with their peers and with academics and develop collaborative skills (across disciplines) of listening, giving and receiving feedback and achieving resolution;
  • Articulate arguments orally and through well-argued essay writing, supported by wide reading and research.


The module will include content delivered by the module convenor and other speakers, supported by seminars and student-led work. Wherever possible, there will be a short break around halfway through the session.

Some sessions will require preparatory reading. Reading will be available via the module's Resources page.

The first session will provide introductory information and set the scene for subsequent sessions.

Provisional program for Autumn Term 2018

  1. Introduction. Information about the module, interdisciplinarity and assessment. An introduction to some preliminary concepts.
  2. Mind, world and mistakes. Hallucinations (perceiving something that isn't there) and delusions (a kind of irrational belief) can be characterised as mistakes of some sort: mistaken perceptions, mistaken thoughts and beliefs. But to see why they might be characterised as mistakes, we need to be able to contrast them with some account of properly functioning perception and thought. In this session we will look at ways of understanding perception and thought.
  3. Neuroscience. Dr. Dawn Collins (Neuroscience, Warwick Medical School) will provide a comprehensive introduction to neuroscience and links to mental ill-health.
  4. Group 1: Dementia. Dr. Martina Zimmermann (affiliated to English, King's College London, and Pharmacology, Goethe University Frankfurt) will draw on her dual background in neuropharmacology and health humanities to explore the dynamics between scientific research on dementia and patients' own views of their illness. Group 2: Psychiatry and Attachment. Dr. Anne-Marie Chilton (Psychiatry, Warwick Medical School) will give us an insight into the way early development can influence mental health in later life.
  5. Understanding and Explaining. Using Karl Jaspers' distinction between understanding and explaining, I will sketch an account of two different ways of making sense of mental ill-health. I will suggest a way in which the arts (e.g. literature and film) can help us make sense of mental ill-health that is - or could be - quite different from the kind of understanding that a purely biomedical approach provides.
  6. Essay planning and film week.
  7. Literature. Dr. Liz Barry (English, Warwick) will draw on her wide knowledge of medical humanities to use and develop links between literature and mental ill-health.
  8. Narrative. When things are going well for us, we usually have an account of how things have been for us, and how we hope things are going to be in the future - a narrative of some sort. How important is it to be able to fit experiences of mental ill-health into a narrative? In this session we will look at arguments for and against the importance of being able to construct a narrative, and the difficulties that might be raised by experiences of mental ill-health.
  9. Critical Approaches to Psychiatry. Historically and more recently, mainstream psychiatry has faced opposition to its conceptions of mental ill-health, and its approaches to treatment. Recent critics have included the psychiatrists R.D. Laing and Thomas Szasz; current critics include psychiatrist Joanna Moncrieff and psychologist Mary Boyle. In this session we will try to arrive at a critique of some of these critical approaches.
  10. Conclusion.

Module convenor

Photo of Vivan Joseph
Dr. Vivan Joseph (v dot joseph dot 1 at warwick dot ac dot uk)


Term 1 (Autumn) 2018-19
Mondays 15.30-17.30


Term 1 (Autumn) 2018-19
Tuesdays 14.00-16.00


Humanities Studio (H0.76)
Humanities Building


See instructions on the main Undergraduate Modules page

For 15 CATS:
3500 word essay (60%)
Reflective journal (40%)
Deadline: TBC

For 12 CATS:
2500 word essay (50%)
Reflective journal (50%)
Deadline: TBC