SOC 2498: Prozac Culture [3]

Joseph Davis, Research Associate Professor

The pharmacological revolution, symbolized in our time by such drugs as Prozac and Ritalin, has been building for decades and has brought a sea change in attitudes toward psychoactive medications and tens of millions of prescriptions for them. The revolution is not merely a matter of new medical treatments; it is a cultural phenomenon that is changing the ways we think about ourselves and experience the world in contexts far removed from the psychiatrist’s office and any conventional questions of mental illness. The course explores the social forces driving the revolution forward, including the definition and expansion of disorder categories; pharaceutical detailing and direct-to-consumer advertising; changes in the profession of psychiatry; and shifts in the ethos of medicine toward a consumerist model. Wider social and cultural changes have, in turn, generated new forms of distress and disconnections in people's lives, new ideals/obligations of self and social performance, and redefinitions of 'normal," which help account for the nature and incidence of the problems that psychoactive medications are taken to address. The course will conclude with a discussion of the social and ethical implications of "Prozac culture."

SOC 2500: Sociology through Cinema [3]

Jeffrey K. Olick, Professor

This course will explore the relationship between Sociology and cinema. This has at least three aspects. First, cinema can provide dramatic visualizations of themes central to sociological analysis. Carefully selected films richly illustrative of sociological themes can thus help to bring sociological concepts and theories to life in a particularly vivid way. Second, as a form of exposition, film itself can be a form of Sociology, providing nuance and narrative description that is sometimes difficult to capture in analytical texts. Third, film is a powerful social force in its own right, both reflecting social trends as well as framing them.

This course thus aims to appreciate the synergies between Sociology and cinema, to understand the role of cinema in social life, and to use cinema as a way of bringing to life and fleshing out sociological themes.

Each class will have three parts. The first part will be an intensive viewing of a main film, perhaps supplemented by clips from others. We will stop and highlight particularly important moments for later analysis. The second part will consist of an instructor’s lecture on the sociology of the themes raised in the film. For example, after viewing One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the lecture will address the sociology of deviant behavior as well as the way sociologists’ interest in mental institutions contributed to their transformation. Finally, the third part of each class will be devoted to close analysis of both the films and texts through class discussion. Assessment will be based on attentive reading and watching, vigorous participation, and a final presentation from each student summarizing the themes they found particularly important.