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Long Fellowship Supports Launch of New Journal

September 11, 2020 English

Neuroscan art

English department students use fiction, design and more to explore the role of neurodiversity in art and literature.

By Rosie Grant

Through fiction, letterpress design, collage and more, a new English department journal grapples with mental illness narratives in art and literature.

“Narrating Madness” came out of Professor Maud Casey’s Spring 2020 pilot English course of the same name. The 110-page journal explores questions such as: How does the language we use in discussing mental illness affect the way we think about mental illness? What role does art play in how we understand neurodiversity? It also includes mental health resources for readers.

The course content was especially poignant during a period of high stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Casey said.

“What might art crack open in a diagnosis in order to get us a little closer to the elusive texture of an inimitable mind?” she said. “The conversations the students had, and the thinking they did on the page over the course of the semester—in the midst of a pandemic, in the midst of all that uncertainty and difficulty—answered that question in many different ways.”

English major Loraine Chow ’22 said the class “emboldened [her] creative process” by allowing her to study strong narrative voices in literature and music, strengthening her own writing voice.

“In my own writing, I’m pulled by characters that drive me towards plots unique to their experiences,” she said. “I learned that a bolder, yet more precise, narrative style serves a valuable purpose.”

The “Narrating Madness” course and journal were part of Casey’s 2019–20 Long Teaching Fellowship, an endowment from John and Anne Long. John Long created the fellowship after attending English classes at the University of Maryland. The fellowship allows English faculty to develop their pedagogy and enhance the learning experience of students. The fellowship, awarded to one professor each year, involves the creation of an innovative course.

Casey, the inaugural recipient of the fellowship, designed “Narrating Madness” to explore the ways art takes students beyond psychiatric diagnosis while reflecting on perspectives of consciousness.  

“I was stunned,” said John Long about the journal. “The quality of the writing and the diversity of thought is riveting.”

An online version of the journal is available to view here.

Creative Writing M.F.A. student Pierce Brown designed the journal, which includes cover art by local artist and guest speaker in the class Leslie Holt.

Associate Professor Kari Kraus is the 2020–21 Long Fellow. She will develop a new introductory programming course called “Storytelling with Code,” which will introduce students to Python programming and storytelling methods through technology.