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ENGL353 Reading Minds: Literature and Psychology

The psychological dimensions of prominent literary texts, canvassing the complex relationship between literature and psychology from a broad range of perspectives.

While literature is inherently interdisciplinary, the relationship between literature and psychology is perhaps particularly intimate. Reading takes us into the minds of characters with whom we might identify and empathise, or it might leave us unsettled and uncomfortable - perhaps because the subject matter 'got under our skin' or because the text invited an uneasy complicity with a morally corrupt character.

Drawing on diverse critical theoretical resources (including psychoanalysis and psychosocial studies), this course canvases the complex relationship between literature and psychology from a range of perspectives. It considers the various connections that may be drawn between the two fields - including the affective connection between reader and text, literature as psychology/psychology as literature, 'madness' and mental health in literature, the 'talking cure' and the 'writing cure', and psychoanalysis as a methodology for reading texts. At the end of this course, students will have greater awareness of, and be able to reflect more deeply about, the psychological dimenions at work in literary texts and sociocultural discourses more broadly.

Paper title Reading Minds: Literature and Psychology
Paper code ENGL353
Subject English
EFTS 0.1500
Points 18 points
Teaching period Second Semester
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $868.95
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $3,656.70

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One 200-level ENGL paper or 54 points
Schedule C
Arts and Music
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Research.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
One 200-level ENGL paper or 54 points.
Learning Outcomes
ENGL 353 aims to:
  • present a selection of literary texts in relation to questions of psychology
  • develop skills in various aspects of literary study, including theoretical tools and terms for analysis
  • address aspects of essay writing, research and expression
Teaching staff
Course Convenor: Dr Simone Drichel
Other lecturing staff: to be advised.
Teaching Arrangements
Two 1-hour lectures per week
1-hour tutorials at pre-announced times (eight in total)
Paper Structure
Assessment for this course consists of one response paper (1250 words), a research essay (2500 words), and a final exam (3 hours).
  • Ken Kesey, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest (Penguin)
  • William Shakespeare, Hamlet (Signet)
  • Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway (Penguin)
  • Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818 text) (Oxford)
  • Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl (Phoenix)
  • Alison Bechdel, Fun Home (Mariner)
  • J. M. Coetzee, Disgrace (Secker & Warburg)

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Second Semester

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Tuesday 11:00-11:50 28-34, 36-41
Thursday 11:00-11:50 28-34, 36-41


Stream Days Times Weeks
Attend one stream from
A1 Tuesday 12:00-12:50 29-31, 33-34, 38-40
A2 Thursday 12:00-12:50 29-31, 33-34, 38-40
A3 Tuesday 14:00-14:50 29-31, 33-34, 38-40