Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and The Artistic Temperament

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Overview

The anguished, volatile intensity we associate with the artistic temperament, often described as "a fine madness," has been thought of as a defining aspect of much artistic genius. Now, Kay Jamison's brilliant work, based on years of studies as a clinical psychologist and prominent researcher in mood disorders, reveals that many artists who were subject to alternatingly exultant and then melancholic moods were, in fact, engaged in a lifelong struggle with manic-depressive illness. Drawing on extraordinary recent ...
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Touched With Fire

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Overview

The anguished, volatile intensity we associate with the artistic temperament, often described as "a fine madness," has been thought of as a defining aspect of much artistic genius. Now, Kay Jamison's brilliant work, based on years of studies as a clinical psychologist and prominent researcher in mood disorders, reveals that many artists who were subject to alternatingly exultant and then melancholic moods were, in fact, engaged in a lifelong struggle with manic-depressive illness. Drawing on extraordinary recent advances in genetics, neuroscience, and psychopharmacology, Jamison presents the now incontrovertible proof of the biological foundations of this frequently misunderstood disease, and applies what is known about the illness, and its closely related temperaments, to the lives of some of the world's greatest artists - Byron, van Gogh, Shelley, Poe, Melville, Schumann, Coleridge, Virginia Woolf, Burns, and many others. Byron's life, discussed in considerable detail, is used as a particularly fascinating example of the complex interaction among heredity, mood, temperament, and poetic work. Jamison reviews the substantial, rapidly accumulating, and remarkably consistent findings from biographic and scientific studies that demonstrate a markedly increased rate of severe mood disorders and suicide in artists, writers, and composers. She then discusses reasons why this link between mania, depression, and artistic creativity might exist. Manic-depressive illness, a surprisingly common disease, is genetically transmitted. For the first time, the extensive family histories of psychiatric illness and suicide in many writers, artists, and composers are presented. In some instances - for example, Tennyson and Byron - these psychiatric pedigrees are traced back more than 150 years. Jamison discusses the complex ethical and cultural consequences of recent research in genetics, especially as they apply to manic-depressive illness, a disease that almost certainly confers
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Drawing from the lives of artists such as Van Gogh, Byron and Virginia Woolf, Jamison examines the links between manic-depression and creativity. (Oct.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780029160039
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publication date: 2/29/2000
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 370

Meet the Author

Kay Redfield Jamison, PhD, is the bestselling author of An Unquiet Mind, Touched with Fire, and other books. She is a professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and has been named a “Hero of Medicine” by Time.

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Table of Contents

1 That Fine Madness: Introduction 1
2 Endless Night, Fierce Fires and Shramming Cold: Manic-Depressive Illness 11
3 Could It Be Madness - This? Controversy and Evidence 49
4 Their Life a Storm Whereon They Ride: Temperament and Imagination 101
5 The Mind's Canker in Its Savage Mood: George Gordon, Lord Byron 149
6 Genealogies of These High Mortal Miseries: The Inheritance of Manic-Depressive Illness 191
7 This Net Throwne Upon the Heavens: Medicine and the Arts 239
App. A. Diagnostic Criteria for the Major Mood Disorders 261
App. B. Writers, Artists, and Composers with Probable Cyclothymia, Major Depression, or Manic-Depressive Illness 267
Notes 271
Acknowledgments 355
Index 359
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 11 )
Rating Distribution

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(9)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(1)

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 10 of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2004

    I Was So Moved

    I have biopolar I and have had my share of mood swings for years. These always happened when I tried to ease myself off one of my medications, for I was tired of feeling like a zombie. Down and down I went to the point that, if I were more creative, I could have written a poem the likes of which the world has yet to read. I am not ashamed to admit that many of the poetry selections in the book moved me to tears. Perhaps only a person who has gone through the hell of depression can experience such emotion. Dr. Jamison made a very impressive argument for the link (gene) between manic-depressives and creative genius. It was astonishing to learn that I am in such great company as Lord Byron, Walt Whitman Samuel Clemens, Joseph Conrad, Sergey Rachmaninoff and so many others. Alas, I lack the talent to create such astonding works as they have, but, at least, I do possess the sensitivity to appreciate what they have given to the world. Although the book contains many facts, figures and graphs, it is still a book to be read and cherished, especially by those who have been 'touched with this fire.'

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2003

    A second- best book

    Unfortunately reading this I had in mine Kay Redfield Jamison's classic memoir 'An Unquiet Mind' That in my opinion is a truly great,classic work. The present work is more an academic study.It does not have the vital element of her own experience as center. There is a sense that many of the things return upon themselves, and many are already well -known. She writes very well . But for me the book did not really give insight into what might be called the ' heart of the mystery' why of all the millions of depressives in the world do a few emerge as great literary creators. By the way it seems to me a far deeper work would center on the all- time master of dark moods, anxiety certainly, Kafka .In these realms he has no equal, and takes us to places no one else has gone before him. Perhaps it is unfair to ask for a book that the writer did not write. There is no doubt that there is much to be learned and understood from this work. Forgive me for saying again that her memoir is a truly great work.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2005

    Touched by this book

    My mother has manic-depressive illness. She was in and out of psychiatric wards and it was difficult growing up with people talking about how 'crazy' she was. I read this book and it gave me a whole new perspective on her illness and the many great minds that have experienced the same intensity of emotions. Before, I thought of it as purely a negative disorder. After reading this book, I believe that the science of genetic testing should not be used to filter out manic-depressive genes. Those same genes also carry the potential for qualities that are vital to the human race, as pointed out in the link to creative genius. Our world would become too boring without people like my mother.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2003

    This book is touched with excellence

    Kay provides compelling evidence that there is indeed a connection between creativity and bipolar disorder. She has written a very interesting and well-researched book. Highly recommended.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2000

    'Fine Maddness'

    You are an over achiever - a star in your profession - honors in academics - and suddenly you find yourself loosing your grip - you plunge - and you plunge and you plunge - Jaminson leads you to the understanding of your 'Fine Maddness' - and enlightens you to the choices you can make to control the gift of 'Fine Maddness'

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2008

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    Posted January 15, 2009

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    Posted October 16, 2010

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    Posted April 10, 2010

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    Posted May 20, 2011

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