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Module HPS-2009:
The Mad, the Holy, and the Dem

Module Facts

Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Prof Lucy Huskinson

Overall aims and purpose

This module introduces students to key ideas in the Psychology of Religion, with emphasis on the relationship between psychoanalytic thought and religious experience. Students will examine the role and reception of religion in two prominent psychoanalytic theoretical models (those of Sigmund Freud and C.G. Jung) to make sense of the interrelationships between religious experience and mental health.

Accounts and case studies of demonic possession will be scrutinised in order to ascertain the extent to which perspectives of religion and psychology are in collaboration or competition. There may be the opportunity for students to question practicing Exorcists/ Deliverance Ministers as part of their learning

Course content

The module will begin with a historical survey of the concept of madness to highlight the difficulties in its definition, and to appreciate the variety of explanations attributed to it in Western culture through the ages. Students will be introduced to the intimate relationship between psychology and religion as two different yet interrelated approaches for making sense of ‘madness’, and the problems apparent in attempts to distinguish between the two. Following this we shall explore two key psychoanalytic models that were developed early in the 20th century for making sense of ‘madness’ and religious experience: the models of Sigmund Freud and C.G Jung. Students will apply these models to prominent case studies of demonic possession (both medieval and contemporary) in order to evaluate the limitations and benefits of either a psychological or religious diagnoses and possible cure. If mutually convenient times can be found, the module convenor will arrange for Exorcists/ Deliverance Ministers to present a class on aspects of their work. Students will be invited to question them.

Assessment Criteria


D- - D +. Submitted work is adequate and shows an acceptable level of competence as follows:

 Generally accurate but with omissions and errors.  Assertions are made without clear supporting evidence or reasoning.  Has structure but is lacking in clarity and therefore relies on the reader to make links and assumptions.  Draws on a relatively narrow range of material.


Good C- - C +. Submitted work is competent throughout and occasionally distinguished by superior style, approach and choice of supporting materials. It demonstrates:  Good structure and logically developed arguments.  At least in parts draws on material that has been sourced and assessed as a result of independent study, or in a way unique to the student.  Assertions are, in the main, backed by evidence and sound reasoning.  Accuracy and presentation in an appropriate academic style.


A - - A*. Submitted work is of an outstanding quality and excellent in one or more of the following ways:  Has originality of exposition with the student’s own thinking being readily apparent.  Provides clear evidence of extensive and relevant independent study.  Arguments are laid down with clarity and provide the reader with successive stages of consideration to reach conclusions.

Learning outcomes

  1. Demonstrate capacity to appreciate the tensions between competing ideas and to debate their values and implications succinctly.

  2. Present coherent arguments, with supporting evidence, in essays and case studies.

  3. Demonstrate a grasp of basic study skills, including the ability to read critically, make effective notes, and competency in academic writing.

  4. Understand basic ideas in psychoanalytic theory and theories of religious experience, and their common principles that enable their useful contrast and comparison.

  5. Demonstrate knowledge of the variety of ways religious instinct and experience presents itself.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
CASE STUDY Debating the issues

Students are given the opportunity to write on a reported case of a supernatural event. The choice of the case is entirely up to the student. Full guidance guidance will be given in class (and also on Blackboard).

ESSAY Theory

A choice of essay questions will be given to students at the start of the module (available on Blackboard). Full instructions and guidance will be given in class (and also on Blackboard).


Teaching and Learning Strategy


Interactive lectures (with group work) will be given to establish the framework and content for the module: two-three hours a week for 11 weeks.

Private study 173

Individual tutorials will be scheduled to give assessment feedback. It is anticipated that 2 hours in total be given to this. Students also have the option of using the 'Office Hours' (2 hours per week) on an ad hoc basis to discuss issues pertaining to their teaching and learning for this module.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Mentoring - Able to support, help, guide, inspire and/or coach others
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others
  • Leadership - Able to lead and manage, develop action plans and objectives, offer guidance and direction to others, and cope with the related pressures such authority can result in

Subject specific skills

  • Articulacy in identifying underlying issues in a wide variety of debates.
  • Precision of thought and expression in the analysis and formulation of complex and controversial problems.
  • Sensitivity in interpretation of religious and philosophical texts drawn from a variety of ages and/or traditions.
  • Clarity and rigour in the critical assessment of arguments presented in such texts.
  • The ability to use and criticise specialised religious and philosophical terminology.
  • The ability to abstract and analyse arguments, and to identify flaws in them, such as false premises and invalid reasoning.
  • The ability to construct rationally persuasive arguments for or against specific religious and philosophical claims.
  • The ability to move between generalisation and appropriately detailed discussion, inventing or discovering examples to support or challenge a position, and distinguishing relevant and irrelevant considerations.
  • The ability to consider unfamiliar ideas and ways of thinking, and to examine critically presuppositions and methods within the disciplines of philosophy and religion.
  • collaborating effectively in a team via experience of working in a group
  • appreciating and being sensitive to different cultures and dealing with unfamiliar situations
  • critical evaluation of one's own and others' opinions


Resource implications for students

The library is well stocked with books. There are many online resources available to students, which are indicated within the module online Blackboard site. Students are not expected to pay for any text books.

Talis Reading list

Reading list

Courses including this module

Optional in courses: