English 172

Literature and Psychology

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2022 Viragh, Atti
MWF 10-11 Wheeler 300

Book List

Dilthey, Wilhelm: Poetry and Experience; Dostoevksy, Fyodor: Crime and Punishment; Freud, Sigmund: The Penguin Freud Reader; Gilman, Charlotte Perkins: The Yellow Wall-Paper, and Selected Writings ; James, William: The Principles of Psychology; Karinthy, Frigyes: A Journey Round My Skull; Plath, Sylvia: Ariel: The Restored Edition; Rilke, Rainer Maria: The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge; Sacks, Oliver: An Anthropologist On Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales ; Woolf, Virginia: Mrs. Dalloway

Other Readings and Media

Course reader will include works by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, Vernon Lee (Violet Paget), Georg Simmel, Charles Baudelaire, Edouard Dujardin and others


Is psychology a science that deals with objective facts? Are these facts established through third-person observation and verification, or first-person experience? Is the object of psychology the neuroanatomy of the brain or the cognitive structures of thought and feeling? Are the origins of mental phenomena best understood through a study of evolutionary history, anatomy and physiology, philosophy of mind, or social interaction? Such questions bedeviled psychology from the moment of its birth as an independent discipline in the late nineteenth century. Answers were provided not only by those now calling themselves “psychologists,” but by writers experimenting with literary forms such as the interior monologue, stream of consciousness, free indirect discourse, life writing and experimental poetry. In fact, we will see how such questions about psychology are not merely matters of scientific debate. They are part of larger cultural and philosophical questions about what it means to be human. As a result, the answers we settle on determine much more than the scope of psychology as a discipline. They entail a vision of the value and role of humanistic thought in a scientifically and economically rationalized society. In this class, we will unravel these interdisciplinary problems that appear braided together in scientific and literary works. Students will develop papers addressing fundamental problems of psychology from both “ends,” finding in literature new ways of framing and understanding the structures of human experience.

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