Literature and Mental Health: Reading for Wellbeing (FutureLearn)

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 Literature and Mental Health: Reading for Wellbeing (FutureLearn)
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This course is open to anyone with an interest in literature or mental health. No previous experience or qualifications are required.
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 Literature and Mental Health: Reading for Wellbeing (FutureLearn)
Find out how poems, plays and novels can help us understand and cope with deep emotional strain in this free online course. The great 18th century writer Dr Samuel Johnson, who suffered from severe bouts of depression, said “the only end of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life or better to endure it.” This free online course will explore how enjoying literature can help us to endure life.

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Taking Johnson’s phrase as a starting point, the course will consider how poems, plays and novels can help us understand and cope with times of deep emotional strain. The reading load will be flexible, and you will have the opportunity to exchange ideas and feelings via the online discussions with other learners.

Together, we’ll explore six themes:

1. Stress: In poetry, the word “stress” refers to the emphasis of certain syllables in a poem’s metre. How might the metrical “stresses” of poetry help us to cope with the mental and emotional stresses of modern life?

2. Heartbreak: Is heartbreak a medical condition? What can Sidney’s sonnets and Austen’s Sense and Sensibility teach us about suffering and recovering from a broken heart?

3. Bereavement: The psychologist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross famously proposed that there are five stages of grief. How might Shakespeare’s Hamlet and poems by Wordsworth and Hardy help us to think differently about the process of grieving?

4. Trauma: PTSD or “shellshock” has long been associated with the traumatic experiences of soldiers in World War 1. How is the condition depicted in war poetry of the era? Can poems and plays offer us an insight into other sources of trauma, including miscarriage and assault?

5. Depression and Bipolar: The writer Rachel Kelly subtitles her memoir Black Rainbow “how words healed me – my journey through depression”. Which texts have people turned to during periods of depression, and why? What can we learn from literature about the links between bipolar disorder and creativity?

6. Ageing and Dementia: One of the greatest studies of ageing in English Literature is Shakespeare’s King Lear. Is it helpful to think about this play in the context of dementia? Why are sufferers of age-related memory loss often still able to recall the poems they have learned “by heart”?




Requirements:

This course is open to anyone with an interest in literature or mental health. No previous experience or qualifications are required.

We suggest that this course should take around 4 hours per week to complete, but this is a guideline figure only, and will vary depending on how much time you spend in engaging in the course discussions, and on whether or not you choose to read any of the longer course texts in their entirety.

All of the texts that we discuss during the course will be provided online in the weekly course materials. We’ll be focusing on poems, as well as on some short extracts from plays and novels, so there’s no need to do any reading in advance. However, if you are interested in finding out more about some of the texts before the course begins, you could have a look at one or two of the following:

- Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

- Rachel Kelly, Black Rainbow

- Melvyn Bragg, Grace and Mary

- Mark Haddon, Polar Bears

- William Shakespeare, King Lear, Hamlet, Titus Andronicus



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MOOC List is learner-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Free Course
This course is open to anyone with an interest in literature or mental health. No previous experience or qualifications are required.

MOOC List is learner-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.