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Self, Family and Nation I: Psychological Cultures in Britain, 1870-1930 - 20 credits (HST607)

The period 1870-1930 witnessed massive social and cultural changes in Britain. A combination of events led to deep anxieties about individual and national identity, and even the status of “civilisation” itself. New means of travel and communication had altered ways of conceptualising the relations of space and time; Darwinism had raised both the terrifying spectre of animal origins and the possibility of manipulating the human future; and the relations of individual to state, nation and empire were in a constant process of renegotiation. The traditional notions of rights and responsibilities linking self, family, and nation were being refashioned and conceptualised in new ways, most notably with a new emphasis on biological inheritance. The bodily and mental health of citizens attained new importance for the state and its subjects. These anxieties and attempts to re-work the individual and social order found outlet in a variety of forums, from new disciplines such as sexology to new methods of writing and presenting the self. This module examines the ways in which emergent psychological discourses were used to imagine, explore and articulate this range of social issues in which the health and happiness of self, family, and nation were perceived as deeply entwined. Major movements and events are explored through a series of ‘case studies’ based on themes including: railways and the Victorian imagination; sexology, sexuality and the self; reproduction, degeneration, and contamination; psychoanalysis and popular culture; and gender, trauma and war. Topics are studied through engagement with diverse contemporary sources, from psychiatric texts to popular novels. Particular emphasis is given to gender, race, and class in re-imagining individual and national identity. The module therefore investigates a range of major themes, events and debates in relation to health (bodily and mental, individual and social), and demonstrates the centrality of psychological cultures in fashioning modern British society.