Policies & Requirements


Discussion: The class encourages dialogue based on mutual respect, a willingness to listen, and tolerance of differing points of view. I hope that all of us can assume the good faith of those present and engage one another with intensity but also compassion, patience, and understanding.

Fair Warning:Much of the material in this course could be disturbing. The history and depiction of mental difference have included, at times, gross discrimination, cruelty, and violence. One section of the syllabus focuses on fictional serial killers. No major requires this specific course, so no one has to take it. Those who enroll in the course, however, must do the required work in it, even if they sometimes find the material unpleasant or objectionable. You will, of course, have the opportunity to discuss what you may find disagreeable about it.

All percentages for grade calculation are approximate rather than mathematically precise. I will take into account the particular strengths (and, if necessary, weaknesses) of individuals in arriving at final grades. There may be some modifications to the syllabus over the course of the semester, so always consult the online version rather than a printed one. These changes won’t involve any significant increase in the amount of work.

Bring Hard Copies of Readings to Class: It will generally be very helpful to have the readings for the day in class with you. On some days, you’ll work in small groups on some of these readings. If we’re talking about a book, bring it to class. If the reading is online or on eres, please print it for our class meeting. While we may not cover every reading in every class, it will be a good practice to have them handy.

No Laptops or other Portable Devices in Class: Other than on days you’re presenting work to the class, you won’t need to have a laptop in class. I’ve tried allowing students to regulate their use of such devices for years, and it’s been a failure. It matters less to me whether individuals distract themselves from the class and much more when surfing, texting, and checking email distracts others and fosters a broader disengagement. I will not feel obliged to remind students about this policy, or to ask that devices be put away over the course of the semester, but use of such devices in class will lead to a marking down of your final grade.

If you have a particular and pressing need to use such devices, please discuss that with me and expect to sit near the front of the class.

ADA Office: Students with documented disabilities who may benefit from accommodations should let me know. The College’s Student Accessibility Office offers helpful services.


Attendance and Participation: Students should be in class having read the assigned material for each day. I’ll hope for thoughtful comments and discussion and will call on people to respond to particular texts, film clips and pictures. Students should submit six blog posts to the course page during the semester, three prior to Spring break and three after. These should be a few sentences, or maybe a paragraph or two. They should be posted at least one hour before the relevant class and address the course materials for the upcoming day. The posts will often come up as part of class discussion. Normally, I’ll make a first post for the day, but don’t feel that you have to wait for me, if you have something to say before I do. My hope is that people will, to some extent, respond to earlier posts, creating a meaningful thread. (20%)

Obsession Monologue: A short piece (written and recorded) examining an object in the obsessive voice of Poe or Gilman. (20%)

A well thought out group (3 or 4 people) recording/podcast on a particular work (10-15 minutes in final cut; 45 minutes in actual discussion), OR one 6-page paper. This Work will be due as noted on the syllabus. It will require editing after the conversation. You can find many examples of literary podcasts online. See, for example, Slate’s Audio Book Club. There are many easy-to-use audio editors with abundant online tutorials. I recommend Audacity, because the media tutors at Middlebury are all trained in its usage, should you want personal help. Late work will be marked down significantly, because the class can’t proceed as planned without the timely completion of projects (25%). This work will take planning to be successful. What is the role of each individual in the discussion? What are the questions to be addressed? You should plan for some disagreement or expansion on points as people speak. Simple agreement isn’t very engaging. I’ll distribute more details as the time approaches, and we’ll discuss some examples in class.

Group Presentations on Films: Each member of a given group will speak for 10-15 minutes on a particular scene from a relevant film during the last weeks of class. Groups should get together to think about how the scenes that individuals choose can be shaped into a coherent, shared presentation (10%)

Final Project: The class will have a take-home final that will probably amount to about 10-11 pages written in response to one or two essay prompts. (25%)

Failure to complete any required assignments for the class will lead to failure in the class. You should also be fully aware of Middlebury’s honor code and abide by it on all work for this class.