This is a preliminary report on a seminar that I taught with my colleague Françoise Meltzer in the winter term of 2011.

We explored a series of films that comprise a kind of short history of a strange genre that occupies the uncanny realm between horror and film noir, between the spectacle of violent, raging lunacy and the quieter scenes of detective work into the etiology of madness, or its confinement and isolation in clinical and disciplinary settings. We wanted to ask a double question about movies and madness. First, what does cinema reveal about insanity that was not available prior to its invention? And second, how does the portrayal of madness affect the specific character of cinema? Since madness has always been subject to theatrical and spectacular display, whether in sacred ritual or in secular drama, what does cinema bring to it that is new or unique to the medium?…

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