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Deviant Obsession

OCD first intruded into my life when I was a teenager. It began as obsessions with my body, primarily my nose and my weight. I couldn't stand the sight of my nose and I would wear sunglasses (even indoors) to cover up what I thought was a monstrosity of a face.

Deviant Obsession

In my late teens, the obsessions with my appearance were replaced with gay obsessions. I suddenly had this intense fear that I was a lesbian and I questioned whether or not I was attracted to my female friends. These obsessions continued for a short period of time and were followed by a period that I call my "OCD remission."

It wasn't until my early 20's that OCD would rear its ugly head again into my relatively peaceful and happy existence. I am sharing my story because I want others to know that OCD is not just about washing, checking or other rituals. There is another horrific side to this illness, and I want others to know that they are not alone and should not feel shame for thoughts they cannot help. I was 22 when I found out that the man I called "Dad" was not my biological father. I was devastated and the stress from learning this information created a tailspin of intrusive, obsessive thoughts. At this time, I began to have deviant sexual obsessions, such as whether or not I could molest someone. I lived with this obsession for more than 3 years and it kept me from enjoying the people I loved most: children. I would have obsessions such as, "could I touch someone inappropriately?" and "am I a horrible person?" These thoughts I kept to myself because I didn't want anyone to think that I was an evil person. I endured this inner nightmare and sure enough these obsessions were replaced with others.

A few months ago, I had another intrusive thought about my boyfriend. The thought popped into my head as if someone had slammed me with a brick. I had an out-of-the-blue thought of stabbing my boyfriend, which spiraled into more obsessions of hurting others. I finally had had enough of intrusive thoughts and checked myself into the psychiatric unit of the local hospital. I was 26 at the time, and had been grappling with obsessive thoughts on and off for more than 10 years. It was at the hospital that I finally learned that I wasn't losing my mind and that I wasn't alone. OCD/Depression was my diagnosis and I was so relieved to learn that I wasn't some horrible person, rather it was the illness taking over my mind.

The following is a novella that depicts a young man and woman in search of differing goals, but the essence of their goals does have something in common: each of their pursuits, if obtained, allows for self-control and recovered lifestyle. However, their lives are far from average throughout the story. Themes such as bulimia, drug use, loveless sex, voyeurism, lucid dreaming and emergency room healthcare are explored in the form of fiction. Both of the main characters in this story explore their world with a measure of obsession, and like any worthy character, their obsessions transform into decisions and actions that highlight aspects of society and psychology; in this case it is American college culture and youthful minds. It is up to the reader to become an explorer also. S/he may turn the pages with an objective mind, or with a sympathetic one. Either will be presented with the same questions: questions concerning self-image, companionship, healthcare socioeconomics, and deviant behavior.

According to Michel Foucault, the Victorians invented deviance. In this course we will both anatomize and test that claim, studying how an emergent social and scientific interest in the abnormal, the unnatural, and the pathological enabled Victorians to describe a variety of activities, affects, and beliefs as deviant. Throughout the century, whole scientific disciplines grew up around the threatening figures of criminals, homosexuals, paupers and hysterical women; while even such seemingly innocuous topics as masturbation, nervousness and dirt were pervaded by a sense of danger and disgust. The novel was a crucial part of this broad cultural obsession with the unacceptable, providing elaborate meditations on what it meant to be normal, as well as on what it meant to transgress the bounds of decency. Readings will include Charles Dickens, *Oliver Twist*; William Thackeray, *Vanity Fair*; Elizabeth Gaskell, *Cranford*; Lewis Carroll, *Alice's Adventures in Wonderland*; Wilkie Collins, *The Moonstone*; Rider Haggard, *She*; Thomas Hardy, *Tess of the D'Urbervilles*. To gain a sense of historical and cultural context, we will supplement our literary readings with a range of Victorian non-fictional writings on troubling practices and worrisome behaviors, from masturbation and murder to sodomy and prostitution. We will also engage seriously with recent theoretical work on deviance and Victorian culture. Requirements include one short paper (7-8 pp), one long research paper (15-20 pp), a final exam, weekly listserve postings, regular attendance and lively participation in class discussion. 041b061a72


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