Date of Award




Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of English

Content Description

1 online resource (iv, 50 pages) : illustrations.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Jeffrey Berman


attitudes, literature classroom, mental health, mental illness, self-disclosure, text analysis, Mental illness in literature, Reader-response criticism, American literature

Subject Categories

American Literature | Rhetoric | Social and Behavioral Sciences


The purpose of this study was to observe undergraduate students’ attitudes toward mental illness and mental health in the literature classroom. This was an observational, inductive study of Jeffrey Berman’s literature course, featuring books written by Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. This setting was chosen because of Berman’s unique pedagogy, which encourages self-disclosure and psychoanalytic readings. Three questionnaires and three introspective reader response diaries were collected from fifteen participants; text analyses were performed on diaries. Research inquiries questioned a participant’s interactions with the books: How did participants respond to the portrayals of characters with mental illness or mental health issues?; How, if at all did they relate introspectively with the books?; Did students struggle to write and discuss mental illness and mental health issues?; Did their attitudes toward mental illness and mental health issues change over the semester? Results indicate participants analyzed the books by using their personal history to judge the authenticity of character portrayals. Just over half the participants admitted to struggling with writing and discussing mental illness and mental health issues, and all but one reported they would enroll in another self-disclosing literature course. Findings show 73.33% of participants realized the prevalence of mental illness when given the opportunity to listen to their peers’ self-disclosing diaries. Moving forward in their personal lives and careers, participants vowed to be less judgmental and more sympathetic toward those around them.