Literature and Mental Health

Does art cure our anxieties or exacerbate them? This reading group explores transforming literary representations of mental health and engages critically with the therapeutic (or non-therapeutic) role of the arts. We aim to bring together a small cohesive cross-period group from a variety of interdisciplinary fields to consider the relationship between literature and forms of mental illness. Drawing from a variety of literary texts (as well as films and paintings!), we discuss how writing both cures and invites forms of madness, what one might mean when one says that a work is ‘intense’ or ‘depressing’, and how a genre’s distinctive formal features represent the inner workings of the mind.
We believe that our critical engagement with representations of mental health in literature can help us understand the role of arts in a world of self-help books and bibliotherapy. As discussions about mental health make their way into the mainstream, we are interested in how literature interacts with social and historical conceptions of mental illness.
Reading list:

Thursday 30 May 2024 (6th Week, Trinity Term)

Thursday 13 June 2024 (8th Week, Trinity Term)

This series features in the following public collections: