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The Literature of Prescription

Higher Education


The Troubled Mind in Medicine and Society
module consists of six one-hour classes that
divide into three thematic units as listed below.
Each class provides a brief introduction, primary
or secondary source readings, and class
discussion questions. Information about the
module’s author, suggested use, and academic
objectives, is also available online
at About the Module.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman writing at her desk

Courtesy Schlesinger Library,
Radcliffe Institute,
Harvard University

Unit 1. Background: Medicine and Culture contains materials for two classes that are designed to help students and teachers gain important information on the history of mental illness and to raise questions about those illnesses that have come and gone, such as neurasthenia.

        Class 1: Mental Illness Historically Considered
        Class 2: Was Neurasthenia Real?

Unit 2. Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Era
focuses on issues of the late nineteenth century: gender and how it played into thinking about women and illness; the new medical specialists, the neurologists, and their perspectives; and the experience of “nervous prostration.” Each of the three issues is explored in one of the following three classes.

        Class 3: Women, Aspiration, Menstruation, and Higher Education in Gilman’s Era
        Class 4: The Experts
        Class 5: The Patients

Unit 3. Contemporary Issues offers the sixth and final class where students explore and evaluate a range of contemporary issues: the experience of depression, contemporary biological approaches to the brain and mind, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), and the marketing and gendering of medications.

        Class 6: A Look at Today