Postmodernism and Psychology

Instructor: Christopher D. Green

This is acutally a course I am building from two recently taught Special Topics graduate seminars.
The outline and reading list of each is given below.

Madness and Civilization

Fall, 1994

Instructor: Christopher D. Green


Michel Foucault, without doubt, is one of the most influential and controversial figures in the field of history of psychiatry. This is somewhat ironic, as he was quite specific when he wrote in the original French edition of Madness and civilization (Histoire de la folie) in the early 1960s, that he was setting out to study the history not of psychiatry, but of madenss itself. In the years since its publication, Foucault has variously been called a genius, a charlatan, the most perceptive historian-philosopher of the 20th century, and the sloppiest of historical scholars. In the book he claimed, among other things, that:

(1) the varieties of "madness" manifested in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment do not map on to what we now call the mental illnesses, and he implicitly rebuked traditional historians of psychiatry for attempting to identify various historical cases as "undiscovered" instances of what are now called schizophrenia, manic-depressive psychosis, etc. Madness, he argued, is culturally constructed, and those who lived in radically different cultural contexts simply could not have had modern psychiatric conditions.

(2) Pinel's and Tuke's alleged transformations of the assylums from places of torture and abuse to places of humane medical care have been completely misread (in the service of the agenda of the medical establishment) by traditional historians of psychiatry, and had far more to do with the political and religious causes with which they were involved than with deeply-felt humanitarian or scientific convictions.

(3)"medical" and "moral" treatments of the mad are utterly intertwined with each other, and they must be because the very identification of "madness" is a culturally located moral decision.

(4) the mad have a "voice" incompatible with the imperatives of modernity (e.g., Cartesian rationality, science, objectivist history, etc.), and were therefore gradually suppressed and confined as that movement came to dominate Europe through the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, but that in earlier times the popular view of the mad was more respectful, even if not altogether accepting.

The focus of this course will be the reading, interpretation, and discussion of Madness and civilization, as well as key materials drawn from the storm of controversy that surrounds it. The issues to be discussed will range from technical points concerning (1) the accuracy of Foucault's specific claims about the mad and society's response to madness and (2) the adequacy of the English translation of the work to broad questions of (3) the appropriateness of the scientific outlook to the problem of madness, (4) the ontological "location" of madness (i.e., is it primarily a concern of medicine, morality, sociology, psychology, etc.?), and (5) the actual nature (if there be one) of "history" as an intellectual activity.


Students will lead two seminars each, on one of which a medium-length (10 pp.) papers will be based. There will also be a major term paper on a relevant topic agreed upon by the instructor and student.


Weeks 1-3. Main text

Foucault, M. (1965). Madness and civilization: A history of insanity in the age of reason (R. Howard, Trans.). New York: Random House. (Original work published 1961/1964/1972)

Week 3 (cont'd). Early reaction to Madness and civilization

Marcus, S. (1966). In praise of folly. New York Review of Books. 7 (8), 6-10.

Laing, R. D. (1967). The invention of madness. New Statesman, 71 (1892), 843.

Rouseau, G. S. (1970). Review of Madness and civilization. Eighteenth-Century Studies, 4 (1), 90-5.

Scruton, R. (1971). Roger Scruton on madness and method. The Spectator, 227 (7476), 513

Week 4. The debate with Derrida

Derrida, J. (1978). Cogito and the history of madness. In J. Derrida, Writing and difference (A. Bass, Trans., pp. 31-63). Chicago, University of Chicago Press. (Original work published 1967)

Foucault, M. (1979). My body, this paper, this fire (G. Bennington, Trans). Oxford Literary Review, 4, 9-28.

Boyne, R. (1990). Derrida and Foucault. Chapter 3 of Foucault and Derrida: The other side of reason (.pp. 53-89). London:Unwin Hyman.

Weeks 5-6. What discipline; what method? History? Philosophy? Structuralism?

Peters, M. (1971). Extended review. The Sociological Review, 19 (4), 634-638.

Megill, A. (1979). Foucault, structuralism, and the ends of history. Journal of Modern History, 51, 451-503.

Green, C. D. (1994). Digging archaeology: Sources of Foucault's historiography. Unpublished.

Hacking, I. (1979). Michel Foucault's immature science. Nous, 13, 39-51.

Rorty, R. (1986). Foucault and epistempology. In D. C. Hoy (Ed.), Foucault: A critical reader (pp. 41-49). Oxford: Basil Blackwell. (Originally presented at the Conference of the Western Division of the American Philosophical Association, 1979)

Wartenberg, T. E. (1984). Foucault's archaeological method: A response to Hacking and Rorty. The Philosophical Forum, 15, 345-363.

Week 7. Questions of Foucault's historical accuracy

Midelfort, H. C. E. (1980). Madness and civilization in early modern Europe: A reappraisal of Michel Foucault. In B. C. Malament (Ed.), After the reformation: Essays in honor of J. H. Hexter (pp. 247-265). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Maher, W. B. & Maher, B. (1982). The ship of fools: Stultifera navis or ignis fatuus? American Psychologist, 37, 756-761.

Sedgwick, P. (1982). Michel Foucault: The anti-history of psychiatry. In Psycho politics (pp. 125-148). London: Pluto Press.

Week 8. Two debates: Stone vs. Foucault; Merquior vs. Gordon

Stone, L. (1982, December 16). Review of Madness and civilization. New York Review of Books. pp. 28-36.

Foucault, M. (1983, March 31). Letter in New York Review of Books. p. 42.

Stone, L. (1983, March 31). Letter in New York Review of Books. pp. 42-44.

Merquior, J. G. (1985). The great confinement, or du côté de la folie. In Foucault (pp. 21-34). London: Fontana.

Gordon, C. (June 6, 1986). Attacks on Singularity. Times Literary Supplement, p. 626.

Merquiror. J. G. (June 13, 1986). Reassessing Foucault. Times Literary Supplement, p. 649.

Gordon, C. (July 4, 1986). Reassessing Foucault. Times Literary Supplement, p. 735.

Weeks 9-12. Colin Gordon's defense of Foucault, reaction, and reply

Still, A. & Velody, I. (Eds.) (1992). Rewriting the history of madness: Studies on Foucault's Histoire de la folie. London: Routledge.

Gutting, G. (1994). Foucault and the history of madness. In (G. Gutting, Ed.), The Cambridge companion to Foucault (pp. 47-70). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Power, Society, and the Practice of Psychology

Summer, 1995

Instructor: Christopher D. Green


This course is concerned broadly with theories of the exercise of power in social institutions, and their application to psychological practice in the prison, the mental hospital, and the psychotherapy clinic. The theory of power studied most closely is that of the French philosopher-historian Michel Foucault. Briefly, Foucault argued that power is not simply concentrated in the hands of a few and wielded oppressively over "the masses," as Marxist theoreticians would have it, but rather that power forms a network of relations that, among other things, gives rise to the various domains of knowledge (psychology among them) that we often simply assume "carve nature at its joints." Put bluntly, Foucault claimed that power produces knowledge.

The main readings of the course include Foucault's books, Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison and The history of sexuality: (Vol. 1). An introduction. These will form the bases of presentations and discussion in the first half of the course. The second half will be concerned with secondary literature on Foucault's theory, and ancillary literature that explicitly extends Foucault's theory to the realm of contemporary psychotherapy. One of the important questions addressed will be, to what extent is psychotherapy a sophisticated form of social control.

Each student is expected to be the main presenter of the readings and discussion leader for one week. Evaluation will be based on each student's presentation, a 2500 word paper based on that presentation, general participation in the class discussion, and a 5000 word term paper.


May 1: Introductions

May 4: Discipline and punish, Part I (pp. 1-72)

May 8: Discipline and punish, Part II (pp. 73-134)

May 11: Discipline and punish, Part III (pp. 135-230)

May 15: Discipline and punish, Part IV (pp. 231-308)

May 18: Power/Knowledge, "Two lectures" and "Truth and power" (pp. 78-133)

May 22, 25: "READING WEEK"

May 29: History of sexuality, Vol. 1: An introduction (all)

June 1: Dreyfus, H. L. & Rabinow, P. (1983). Michel Foucault: Beyond structuralism and hermeneutics (2nd ed.) chapters 7-9 (pp. 143-204).

June 5: Taylor, C. (1986). Foucault on freedom and truth. In D. C. Hoy (Ed.), Foucault: A critical reader (pp. 69-102).
Rouse, J. (1994). Power/Knowledge. In G. Gutting (Ed.), The Cambridge companion to Foucault (pp. 92-114).
Sawicki, J. (1994). Foucault, feminism, and questions of identity. In G. Gutting (Ed.), The Cambridge companion to Foucault (pp. 286-313).

June 8: Lukes, S. (1974). Power: A radical view. (pp. 9-35).
Hoy, D. C. (1986). Power, repression, progress: Foucault, Lukes, and the Frankfurt school. In D. C. Hoy (Ed.), Foucault: A critical reader (pp. 123-147).
Poster, M. (1989). Critical theory and poststructuralism: In search of a context. chapters 6-7 (pp. 104-142)

June 12: Hacking, I. (1982). Biopower and the avalanche of printed numbers. Humanities in Society, 5, 279-295.
Rose, N. (1992). Engineering the human soul: Analysing psychological expertise. Science in context, 5, 351-369.
Green, C. D. (1995). The power hour: Maybe psychotherapy is social control after all. American Psychological Association presentation, New York.

Optional: Chomsky, N. & Foucault, M. (1974). Human nature: Justice vs. power. In F. Elders (Ed.), Reflexive water: The basic concerns of mankind (pp. 135-197).