Art of Psychiatry Society

Speaker meeting: Dr James Whitehead “Creativity and madness – debunking the myth?” April 8 2014
March 27, 2014, 8:36 am
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Speaker meeting: Dr James Whitehead “Creativity and madness – debunking the myth?”

Tuesday 8th April 2014 6pm Institute of Psychiatry Robin Murray lecture theatre A

The idea that creativity is linked to mental illness has long been ‘one of the characteristic notions of our culture’, as the American literary critic Lionel Trilling wrote in 1945. It has informed, among many other things, popular representations and stereotypes of artistic or literary ‘genius’, whether as personality or as practice, a range of polemics about modern art, decadence, and the avant-garde, the formation of the idea of outsider art, and psychoanalytic readings of culture.

But when, how, and why did this idea become so popular and widespread? In this talk Dr Whitehead will discuss the ways in which it was popularized or stereotyped in the nineteenth century, with particular reference to the image of the ‘mad poet’, and examine the extent to which we might think of it as a romantic (or Romantic) myth.

James Whitehead is currently Wellcome Research Fellow in the English department at King’s College London, attached to the interdisciplinary Centre for the Humanities and Health. His first book examines nineteenth-century writing (including poetry, journalism, criticism, biographical writing, medical and psychiatric literature) which linked poetry and poets to madness. It is under review for publication with Oxford University Press as Madness and the Romantic Poet. Whitehead’s current research project moves from literary mythologies surrounding madness to the realities (and unrealities) of its experience, and examines the history of autobiographical writing about mental illness

We look forward to seeing you there!

This is an open meeting and all are welcome.  As usual there will be snacks and wine

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