Madness and Creativity: The Psychological Link

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Fall 2017
Winter 2018
Credits per quarter

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Taught by

film studies, film production, history
Russian language and literature
cognitive psychology

What is creativity? Is there a relationship between states of mind and a fertile imagination? What are the psychological mechanisms involved in human imagination, urging us to explore new avenues, to see what others have not seen, to create what no one has yet created? Many of the world's greatest minds have struggled with abnormal psychological conditions. We explore these conditions and their impact on creativity, searching for links between abnormal psychological conditions and the urge to create. We also study the normal mind and how it functions in both mundane and creative ways. This work serves as an introduction to further study in psychology.

Our program is not intended as therapy. It is a serious interdisciplinary study of psychology, literature, the arts, imagination, and the creative impulse, explored through various modes of inquiry. Our in-depth study of abnormal psychology teaches us to identify and understand a number of conditions. Many of our readings combine art theory with scientific psychological case studies by writers such as Oliver Sacks. Our imaginative literature includes works by Gogol, Dostoevsky, Poe, Styron, Plath, and other writers describing abnormal psychological conditions. We combine hard science study with the humanities seamlessly.

Channeling their creative imagination, students study film history and techniques of filmmaking and apply their acquired knowledge to creating their own short films. With groups of peers, and using simple equipment such as cell phones and laptop computers, students engage in pre-production, production, and post-production film work. Scriptwriting, acting, and shooting and peer-editing their films prepare students for further work in filmmaking. As part of this study, we also view and critique a number of feature films and documentaries which deal with the psychological conditions we are examining and which speak to human creative potential.

In both quarters, assignments also include study of abnormal psychology in an interactive way in conjunction with our textbook, short weekly seminar commentaries along with seminar discussion, written midterm learning plans, a major argumentative essay in fall term, and a concept-linking essay in winter term based on readings assigned for seminar and on the films viewed. Students participate in additional projects designed to explore and stimulate creativity, including mask making, beading, and pysanky , the traditional Ukrainian art of wax-resist egg decorating. We take field trips to the Tacoma Art Museum and the Museum of Glass. In all our activities, students have ample opportunities to explore their own creativity and imagination.

This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in: psychology, education, literary and film studies, world literature, cultural studies, and the arts

Online learning:
  • Enhanced Online Learning - This offering requires access to web-based tools, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

$125 in fall for entrance fees, workshop supplies, and art supplies; $105 in winter for workshop supplies and art supplies.

Scheduled for: Day

Located in: Olympia

Final schedule and room assignment:


Advertised schedule:

First winter class meeting: Monday, January 9 at 9am (Lecture Hall Classroom 7)

2017-05-05Description has been updated.