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Teaching madness and literature in a healthcare context: an enquiry into interdisciplinary education

David Flood (Professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions, Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)
Carol‐Ann Farkas (Associate Professor and Director of Writing Programs in the School of Arts and Sciences in the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)

Mental Health Review Journal

ISSN: 1361-9322

Article publication date: 16 September 2011




This paper seeks to examine the value of teaching about mental illness through the use of literature.


Using the examples of two colleges in eastern USA that focus on educating students for healthcare careers, the paper examines two different course formats for using literature to teach about mental illness: a course that places the topic within the larger context of medicine and literature; and a freestanding madness and literature course.


While professional education tends towards specialization, it can lead to a monocultural vision that limits approaches to patients and problems alike. Courses integrating mental illness and literature were found to be effective means of counteracting this trend.

Research limitations/implications

The study is limited to two healthcare‐centred colleges in eastern USA.

Practical implications

For mental health clinicians and healthcare professionals in general, literature broadens the scope of both perspectives and analytical tools for understanding mental disorders and responses to them.


While literature courses often contain such themes as mental illness, courses that truly integrate literature with mental illness meet a growing need for interdisciplinary education as a means of preparing more flexibly thinking healthcare professionals.



Flood, D. and Farkas, C. (2011), "Teaching madness and literature in a healthcare context: an enquiry into interdisciplinary education", Mental Health Review Journal, Vol. 16 No. 3, pp. 128-137.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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