Our thanks to the Arts and Humanities Research Council for funding the Madness and Literature Network. Each year the AHRC provides funding from the Government to support research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities, from archaeology and English literature to design and dance. The range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. Further information on the AHRC is available on their website.
This project builds on a current project with The Leverhulme Trust on the representation of madness in post-war British and American Fiction. Membership to the Madness and Literature Network is free - Please register under ‘New User Registration’. Benefits of membership include the possibility of attending our invitation-only seminars, being kept fully informed of developments in the broad field of Health Humanities here at Nottingham, and the opportunity to submit fully peer-reviewed book reviews to our database, which will be accredited to the submitting reviewer.
Please note, you are welcome to use these resources and the website for teaching or other purposes, however please do drop us a line and let us know how you are finding the site, or any suggestions you may have for improvements. firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
Bibliography of First-Person Narratives of Madness in English (5th edition)
1st International Health Humanities Conference: Madness and Literature was held at Nottingham 6th - 8th August 2010. See 'Seminars and Conference' for further details.
Heart of Darkness
Conrad’s classic novel Heart of Darkness tells the story of Marlow’s journey by steamboat into the interior of the African continent following his appointment as an agent for a river trading company. Ominously, even before setting out, the company’s doctor asks him if there is any madness in his family, points up his interest in ‘the mental changes of individuals’ and warns: ‘ “In the tropics one must before everything keep calm.” . . . He lifted a warning forefinger . . . “Du calme, du calme. Adieu.” (17) As the journey progresses, seeking out the chief ivory trader Kurtz, deep in the interior, his health and station in jeopardy, there is a growing unease that Maslow’s journey will be into psychological and spiritual as much as cultural and physical darkness. He witnesses a ‘touch of insanity’ in a French man-of-war firing its guns into a dark, inscrutable jungle with its unseen natives, learns of a Swedish captain hanging himself and begins to experience the mental fragility of those around him as the strangeness, brooding silence and threat of the continent intrudes. Reference to ‘lunatics’, the ‘asylum’, ‘madhouse’, nightmares, wildness and dream-like states builds a backdrop of mental anguish that peaks on arriving at Kurtz’s trading-post, where its manager is dressed in motley and the sick chief has clearly given himself over to a savage existence, with decapitated heads on sticks marking the boundary of his accommodation. Kurtz, an enigmatic, gifted but deeply flawed individual is living among the natives like a god, ruling with the ‘thunder’ from his guns. He has become a voracious brute despite his cultural refinement in oratory, poetry and musicality. Although his ‘nerves’ have been deemed to go ‘wrong’ (71) ‘forget[ting] himself’ (81), presiding at midnight dances with the natives ‘ending with unspeakable rites’, Marlow diagnoses in Kurtz a moral madness. Finding him ‘out to the edge of the forest’ and trying to bring him away from ‘the gleam of fires, the throb of drums, the drone of weird incantations’ as another native ritual unfolds, Marlow comments: ‘And I wasn’t arguing with a lunatic either. Believe me or not, his intelligence was perfectly clear ... But his soul was mad. Being alone in the wilderness, it had looked within itself, and, by heavens! I tell you, it had gone mad.’ (95)
The School of English Studies
in collaboration with the Schools of Nursing and Sociology and Social Policy
MA in Health Communication
(by web-based distance learning)
Meeting the challenges of communication - The MA programme in Health Communication provides a unique opportunity to investigate language and communication in various health care contexts. The course gives students a thorough grounding in the concepts, theories and research methods used in this area.
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