Beyond Blue

In her introduction to “Touched With Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament,” psychologist and writer Kay Redfield Jamison writes this:

“‘We of the craft are all crazy’ remarked Lord Byron about himself and his fellow poets. ‘Some are affected by gaiety, others by melancholy, but all are more or less touched….’ The fiery aspects of thought and feeling that initially compel the artistic voyage–fierce energy, high mood, and quick intelligence; a sense of the visionary and the grand; a restless and feverish temperament–commonly carry with them the capacity for vastly darker moods, grimmer energies, and, occasionally, bouts of “madness.” These opposite moods and energies, often interlaced, can appear to the world as mercurial, intemperate, volatile, brooding, troubled, or stormy. In short, they form the common view of the artistic temperament, and they also form the basis of the manic-depressive temperament. Poetic or artistic genius, when infused with these fitful and inconstant moods, can become a powerful crucible for imagination and experience.”

Her book is a fascinating glimpse into the psyches of some of the world’s most renowned artists and literary figures, and an overview of the biographical and scientific evidence for a relationship between manic depression and artistic creativity (Jamison writes that “recent research strongly suggests that, compared with the general population, writers and artists show a vastly disproportionate rate of manic-depressive or depressive illnesses”).

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