Madness and Creativity: The Psychological Link

Fall 2019
Winter 2020
Freshman - Sophomore
Class Size: 69
16 Credits per quarter
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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. Many of our readings combine art theory with scientific psychological case studies by writers such as Oliver Sacks. Our readings include works by Gogol, Dostoevsky, Poe, Styron, Plath, and others describing abnormal psychological conditions, as well as articles dealing with related issues, such as shamanism, which present varied approaches to mental illness at different periods and from different cultural perspectives. 

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.


Enrollment Conditions

This program accepts new enrollment in winter.

Fall 2019 Registration

Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16): 10200
So (16): 10283
Winter 2020 Registration

Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16): 20067
So (16): 20147

Academic details

Preparatory for studies and careers in

psychology, education, literary and film studies, world literature, cultural studies, and the arts

Maximum Enrollment
Class Standing

$145 in fall for workshop supplies, and art supplies (including beading workshop at Shipwreck Beads); $122 in winter for entry to Tacoma Glass Museum, plus workshop supplies and art supplies.


In Person or Remote
In Person (F)
In Person (W)
Time Offered
Advertised Schedule

First fall class meeting: Monday of first day of fall term, 2019

Schedule Evergreen link
see Schedule Evergreen for detailed schedule

First Meeting

SEM 2 C1105 - Lecture


Date Revision
2019-07-18 Albert Lee added to teaching team