What is ‘creativity’? And what is ‘madness’? How far can we interpret an artist’s work through our knowledge of his or her mental state, and how far can we infer a mental state from a work of art? When does a work of art cease to be a personal statement by the artist and become a matter of public concern?The contributions to this book attempt to answer some of these questions. They come from a wide range of disciplines and experiences – a practising psychiatrist, a practising artist suffering from reactive depression, and critics working in literature, film, music and the visual arts. The essays include discussions of the ‘myth of creativity’, the music of Robert Schumann, the borders of sanity in the writing of Lawrence Durrell, the ‘insane truth’ of Virginia Woolf, the meeting of doctor and patient in the poetry of Anne Sexton, mood disorders in the fiction of David Foster Wallace, love and madness in the poetry of Hafiz of Shiraz, and the paintings of Adolf Wölfli.Central to this discussion of creativity, madness and civilisation is the difficulty of establishing an appropriate and effective vocabulary and mindset between critics and clinical psychiatrists, which would enable them to work together in understanding mental disturbance in creative artists.
Richard Pine is Director Emeritus of the Durrell School of Corfu, which he founded in 2001. He is the author of Lawrence Durrell: the Mindscape and of critical works on Brian Friel and Oscar Wilde.