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    Focuses on the psychological dimensions of prominent literary texts. Canvasses 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, and these characters—like the humans upon whom they are modelled—frequently face a range of psychological challenges. In response, they may develop characterological adaptations (such as “monstrous” loneliness,  narcissism, etc.) that can generate problems in psychological functioning—problems that affect not just the characters themselves, but also those with whom they stand in relation.

    In this paper, we read a range of literary texts with a view to understanding—both analytically and empathetically—some of these problems and adaptations, focusing particularly on trauma in its various manifestations.  Further, instead of simply considering the resulting post-traumatic "pathologies" the property of individuals, the paper adopts a psychosocial lens to emphasise the broader social dimensions underpinning maladaptive psychological formations, as well as their (frequently unconscious) transgenerational transmission. It concludes with a reflection on the little or big "madnesses" that may lie hidden within the very fabric of what is considered to be "sane" and "normal" in Western society.

    At the end of this paper, students will have greater awareness of, and be able to reflect more deeply about, the psychological dimensions at work in literary texts and sociocultural discourses more broadly.

    About this paper

    Paper title Reading Minds: Literature and Psychology
    Subject English
    EFTS 0.15
    Points 18 points
    Teaching period Semester 2 (On campus)
    Domestic Tuition Fees ( NZD ) $981.75
    International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.
    One 200-level ENGL paper or 54 points
    Schedule C
    Arts and Music
    Teaching staff

    Course Convenor: Dr Simone Drichel
    Other lecturing staff: to be advised

    Paper Structure

    Assessment for this paper consists of one creative response (1,500 words), a research essay (2,500 words), and a final exam (3 hours).

    Teaching Arrangements

    Two 1-hour lectures per week.
    1-hour tutorials at pre-announced times (eight in total).


    Course Texts (in order of teaching):

    • Ken Kesey, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Penguin)
    • Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway (Penguin)
    • Mary Shelley, Frankenstein [1818 text] (Oxford)
    • Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl (Phoenix)
    • Alison Bechdel, Fun Home (Mariner)
    • Celeste Ng, Everything I Never Told You (Penguin)
    • J. M. Coetzee, Disgrace (Vintage)
    Graduate Attributes Emphasised
    Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Research.
    View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
    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


    Semester 2

    Teaching method
    This paper is taught On Campus
    Learning management system


    Stream Days Times Weeks
    A1 Tuesday 11:00-11:50 29-35, 37-42
    Thursday 11:00-11:50 29-35, 37-42


    Stream Days Times Weeks
    Attend one stream from
    A1 Thursday 13:00-13:50 30-32, 34, 37-38, 40-41
    A2 Thursday 14:00-14:50 30-32, 34, 37-38, 40-41
    A3 Thursday 15:00-15:50 30-32, 34, 37-38, 40-41
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