This course will take place in person.
Victorian novelists and poets had deep insights into the workings of the mind, and many psychiatrists of the time cited works of fiction in their case studies. Among the authors we will cover are Charlotte Brontë, Edgar Allan Poe, Wilkie Collins, Gogol, Herman Melville, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. All diagnoses were hotly contested. Among the psychological phenomena we will examine are ‘hysteria’, paranoia, alcoholism, ‘moral insanity’, learning difficulties, and post-natal depression.
We will also examine the phenomenon of the Victorian asylum. Each of the authors had a huge insight into such states, and constructed impressive and thoughtful works of art to explore these conditions and the impacts of sufferers and those around them.
Who is this course for?
No previous skills or knowledge required, except curiosity and a capacity for reading texts that are occasionally distressing. The confidence to share your insights with the group is desirable.
Will I need any equipment or materials?
No equipment or materials are required. Extracts will be sent out in advance. Reading ahead of the study day is optional. Teaching will be delivered via mini-lecture and seminar.
How we’re keeping you safe
Because we would like to keep the staff and each other safe, we expect and recommend face coverings to be worn the public areas that can become crowded. These are the corridors, toilet areas and the queues at the bar. There will also be an event-specific QR code that guests will be asked to scan on arrival.
If you test positive for Covid-19 or are asked to isolate and are not able to attend your class or pre-booked event, please contact the Bishopsgate Box Office for further information (email@example.com). Please do not come to the Institute in person if you have symptoms or have tested positive.
In addition to these measures, Bishopsgate Institute has strict cleaning protocols in place and ventilation throughout the building. There are also numerous hand-sanitising stations available and touch-free drinking fountains. Find out more about how we’re keeping you safe.
You will learn
- To define key diagnoses made by 19th-century psychiatrists
- To identify the opposition that was expressed to each of these theories
- To explore approaches to mental illness shown by a number of giants of 19th-century fiction, and the narrative strategies they used to present their views
- To identify the stylistic innovation and shifts in literary genre that each of these works display.
Meet the Tutor
Sarah Wise teaches 19th-century social history and literature to undergraduates and adult learners, and is visiting professor at the University of California’s London Study Center. Sarah’s debut, The Italian Boy: Murder and Grave Robbery in 1830s London, was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and won the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction. It was the inspiration for Sky’s The Frankenstein Chronicles.
Her follow-up, The Blackest Streets: The Life and Death of a Victorian Slum, was shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize, and was the basis for the BBC’s series The Victorian Slum.
Her most recent book, Inconvenient People, was shortlisted for the 2014 Wellcome Prize. Her TV work includes providing background material for BBC1’s Secret History of Our Streets, and BBC2’s The Victorian Slum, and she has twice been the history expert on Who Do You Think You Are?
Need to Know
- 10:00 - 16:00
- Bishopsgate Institute
- Sarah Wise
- Max Students
- No. of Sessions
- Course Code