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A new online course being offered by the University of Warwick will explore the connection between reading and mental health. The 6 week course entitled “Literature and Wellbeing: Reading for Mental Health” will seek to provide an understanding of how poetry, plays, and prose can offer support and healing during times of emotional stress and other negative life events. Learn more about this unique course in today’s blog, below.

reading and mental health

Free Online Course Examines How Reading Impacts Mental Health


Led by Professor Jonathan Bate and Dr. Paula Byrne, “Literature and Wellbeing: Reading for Mental Health” is rooted in a quote by Dr. Samuel Johnson–a lifelong sufferer of clinical depression–who said “the only end of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life or better to endure it.” Over the course of 6 weeks, students are encouraged to meditate on this thought while exploring the six following themes:


Stress. The term stress has a very different meaning when used to describe poetic meter. During this portion of the course, students will explore how poetry’s metrical stresses can inform and create a deeper understanding of emotional and mental stresses in everyday life.


Heartbreak. Using Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and the sonnets of Sidney, this portion of the course will explore the realities of navigating a broken heart.


Bereavement. How are the 5 stages of grief complicated or neglected in Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the poems of Hardy and Wordsworth?


Trauma. It is now generally accepted that PTSD is a common aftereffect of war. How are PTSD and trauma explored in the poetry published during World War I?


Depression/bipolar. For centuries, readers have turned to the comfort of reading to ease the symptoms of their depression and as a coping mechanism. Explore which books tend to be popular during times of depression and find out why they offer enduring comfort to those in need.


Aging and dementia. Shakespeare’s King Lear offers a textual vehicle from which to explore complex questions around aging and dementia.


The course requires about 4 hours of reading per week and offers the opportunity to speak with other classmates via an online forum. It begins on February 1st so if you are interested, be sure to sign up today!

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