Psychiatry in Literature

Academic year2019-2020                                                                
Period1 and 2
Days and TimeWednesday 18.00-20.00: 11 September, 9 and 30 October and 13 November 2019
Saturday 11.00-17.00: 28 September and 23 November 2019
Number of meetings        6
Location11 September, 9, 30 October and 13 November 2019, Vrije Universiteit, room BV1H-50 (in BelleVU building, number 1091 at this map)
Saturday 28 September, Museum Dr. Guislain te Gent
Saturday 23 November, Museum het Dolhuys te Haarlem
LecturersProf. dr. Arko Oderwald, Department of Family Medicine. VU Medical Center, Amsterdam
Dr. Sofie Vandamme, Hogeschool voor de Kunsten, Gent
More informationYou can download the programme here

Course Description

The psychiatrist and novelist have certain features in common. Both disciplines observe, describe and judge human behavior, although in a different way. In this course we will discuss a number of novels en movies in which psychiatric questions play an important role. At the same time the course also gives insight in the history of psychiatry and in the development of the concept of disease in psychiatry, starting in the early 19th century. The course will start and end with two Saturdays in a former psychiatric institution, in Gent and Haarlem. These institutions are now a museum for the history of psychiatry.

Working formats

  • Interactive classes with peer interaction
  • Reading and analyzing novels
  • Writing reviews as a preparation for the classes, practicing academic skills
  • Visiting two museum for the history of psychiatry

Relevance of the course 
Psychiatry has always been a very social discipline, in which daily life and human behavior is an important feature. Novelist give another form of insight in psychiatric diseases, sometimes even before a disease has been described by the psychiatrist.

Novels to read obligatory

  • Georg Büchner: Lenz (1834)
  • Gustave Flaubert: Madame Bovary (1860)
  • Emile Zola: Therèse Raquin (1867)
  • Joachim Machado de Assis: The psychiatrist (1881)
  • Frederik van Eeden: The deeps of deliverance (1900)
  • Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jarr (1963)
  • Jonathan Frantzen: The corrections (2001)
  • Honoré de Balza: Louis Lambert (1832)
  • Ken Kesey: One flew over the cuckoo's nest (1962)


  • A beautiful mind (obligatroy)

Movies at choice

  • The deep of deliverance (Nouschka van Brakel)
  • One flew over the cuckoo's nest (Milos Forman)

Background literature (obligatory) 

  • Roy Porter: Madness, a brief history 
  • Arko Oderwald: Unfamiliar knowledge


  • Attending the courses
  • Writing 5 reviews (400 words) (30%)
  • Writing an academic essay of 3000 words (70%)

Attendance policy
The courses are obligatory