Through the research I have done for my recent blog posts, I have become interested in what it means to be a creative genius and how the thought processes of individuals with extremely high creative intelligence differ from those of average people. While creative geniuses like Leo Tolstoy, Vincent van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, Jonathan Swift, and Friedrich Nietzsche are known for their outstanding contributions to their respective fields, many do not know that each suffered from severe mental illness. There has been significant research published on the topic of creativity and mental illness, ranging from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. The scholarship has largely explored the neuropsychology and genetics of creative individuals, aiming to explain why there is such a high correlation between creativity and mental disorders.
In my paper, I plan to begin by establishing my definition of creative genius based on what I have read in Origins of Genius, The Creating Brain, and other sources, followed by research on the biological and psychological relationship between mental illness and creativity, exploring the degree of causation. In other words, are geniuses mentally ill because they are creative or vice versa? This will also bring about questions about the nature of art: Is it merely an expression of the neurosis of the artist, as Freud theorized? For the bulk of my paper, I would like to apply what I learn about creativity and mental illness to the biographical details of an eminent creative genius, most likely an author to tie in my interest in literature. In doing so, I hope to gain insight into the way in which mental illness affects the creative process and come closer to answering the causation question. Though I do not yet know what I will discover, I hypothesize that I will find that while there are biological factors that contribute to the correlation, the personality traits that come along with being highly creative are the most significant cause of mental illness among creative geniuses.
Andreasen, Nancy C. The Creating Brain: The Neuroscience of Genius. New York: Dana Press, 2005. Print.
Hare, Edward. “Creativity And Mental Illness.” British Medical Journal (Clinical Research Edition) 295.6613 (1987): 1587–1589. Print.
Simonton, Dean Keith. Origins of Genius: Darwinian Perspectives on Creativity. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Print.