E-Learning Module: Mental Illness and Literature

Intertextual Investigations to Augment

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey

A Webquest for Psychology and Literature


This semester, we have been  exploring psychological lenses and various aspects of psychology as they relate to literature.  In doing so, we are learning to read our own worlds through keener understandings about the way the mind works. 

Today, you will begin to research the broad dimensions of personality and psychological disorders.  The information you compile will become part of  a multimodal presentation that you will teach to the class.  It will also offer you insights into the novel that we are beginning:  Ken Kesey's  One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest., which is based on the author's own experiences as an orderly at a mental health facility in Menlo Park, California, 

This webquest will help you, in addition, because the inner workings of institutions for the mentally ill are largely hidden from the general public.  Kesey's novel has fascinated readers due to its exposure of the inhumane treatment of patients during his time period.  The novel follows the protagonist, Randel McMurphy, who may or may not be feigning insanity to escape the hard labor of a prison work farm.  The reader meets a variety of characters whose journeys between sanity and insanity parallel institutional abuses of power, then and now, both in medicine and in society at large.   

For two days this week, you'll conduct preliminary explorations into the worlds of psychology and literature to gain insight into areas that interest you.  You'll join other students and become much more knowledgeable about the nature and treatment of personality and psychological disorders.

Your Task 

Your goal is to become an  undercover investigator whose assignment is to determine the state of mental illness treatment in the United States.  You must go through a series of learning events to better understand mental institutions and personality and psychological disorders--- both in the time period when Kesey wrote his novel and today --- in order to decide what the best treatments should be for persons who experience mental illness.  

Individually, you must create a Web page on your own Google website that captures important information you locate during  each step of "The Process" below.  As you unveil each step of the process, you'll find resources that will build into the presentation you and a group of three other students (2-12H and 2-12CP students per group) will deliver to the class.

Ms. Goguen will help you to choose groups that will balance College Preparatory and Honors students and to ensure that everyone in the class has been assigned to a balanced group.  Thank you, Ms. Goguen!

The Process 

a) Write three (3) sentences in your own words that describe information you discover within each Step. 

English 12H students:  you must also include direct excerpts in each sentence, and you must research one scholarly article during the webquest as well.

b)  To make your upcoming presentation interesting to your classmates, please include at least one of each of the following types of texts on your webpage: 
        digital, audio, visual, video, and print  (You can choose which Steps are best for which of these modalities.)
  1. Explore the Mental Health History Timeline.  First, skim through the materials from pre-history up until about 1950.  Second--- and most importantly --- pay close attention to the events that have occurred from 1950 to the present.  1950+ represents a more contemporary examination of mental health issues and events. 

  2. Explore the history of one particular hospital through a study of David H. Clark's article, "The Story of a Mental Hospital: Fulbourn, 1858-1983," again, taking particular note of the period between the late 1950's and the present.
  3. Learn about the symptoms of behavior disorders, personality disorders,  and antisocial personality disorder.
  4. List therapists who have been connected to or interested in particular disorders ---- What therapies did they invent or propose, for example?
  5. Identify famous persons across history who have experienced personality and psychological disorders.  You might try celebrities with mental health disorders,  or celebrities living with mental orders or people with major depressive disorders. (There are many other websites you can discover on your own about this topic, too.)
  6. Learn more about the definitions, management and treatment of personality and psychological disorders,
  7. Read about the practice of Institutionalization, taking special note of changes and/or progress over time.
  8. Determine the symptoms a person with a particular personality or psychological disorder presents to others.  What are the difficulties a person with a personality or psychological disorder experiences?  How does having a personality or psychological disorder affect a person's school, family, and/ or social life?

Individual Assessment/Evaluation

While you will present your findings with your group, you will be graded individually.  Remember:  put your information on your Google website.

You need to demonstrate understanding of the different dimensions of mental illness as emerge through personality and psychological disorders.  You need to create an interesting presentation for the class through your use of digital, audio, visual, video, and print texts that your display through your webpage.  An exemplary webpage will thoroughly discuss each hyperlink.  It will look professional, as if it were a resource for others who are researching mental illness and personality and psychological disorders.   It will cite sources accurately. It will be polished, containing no grammar, mechanical, usage, or proofreading mistakes. 


I hope you have developed a greater understanding of the history of mental health care, as well as learned more about personality and psychological disorders in our modern society. You should have discovered that while great progress has been made in caring for those with mental illnesses, we still have much room for improvement. Your presentation will be a culmination of the independent learning you accomplish this week, and you'll connect back to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (first section of reading is due on Thursday) through this work and our continued explorations into Social Psychology.


Many thanks go out to Dana Huff at Weber School for the ideas contained in her webquest, as many of these materials became central to Dr. Carolyn's own website.  Also, Ms. Jenn Briggs contributed the background information about disorders which became embedded into this webquest.  Thanks to both!