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Self, Family and Nation II: Psychological Cultures in Britain, 1930-1980 - 20 credits (HST608)

As studied in ‘Self, Family and Nation I: Psychological Cultures in Britain, 1930-1980’, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century psychological discourses proliferated in Britain. This module takes the story further, examining how a range of new “social problems” were constituted within psychological frameworks of understanding, and seen as curable using psychotherapeutic measures. Although the twentieth century has been labelled ‘the Freudian century’, recent research has shown that the reach of ‘the psychological’ extended far beyond the psychoanalyst’s couch, and took a range of forms outside ‘the talking cure’. The module therefore employs a broad-ranging concept of “the psychological”, and engagement with a variety of medical, scientific, literary and cinematic sources.

The module focuses on how psychological discourses were used to imagine, explore, and articulate a 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:  healthy bodies and healthy minds; psychology at war; sexual selves; the family and the state; decline and the state of the nation. Topics are studied through engagement with diverse contemporary sources, including novels, Mass Observation surveys, British films, sociological literature, and self-help books. These are placed in the context of changing notions of the health responsibilities of the individual, public health education, and government policy. Particular emphasis is given to gender, race, and class in re-imagining modern identities. 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 continuing centrality of psychological cultures in fashioning modern British society.