'La Muse Malade', 'The Fool's Perceptions' & 'Il Furore dell'Arte': An Examination of the Socio-cultural Construction of Genius through Madness

Anna Lavis
Anthropology & Medicine 2005 August 1, 12 (2): 151-63
The cultural interplay of madness and genius is entrenched in, although not exclusive to, Western intellectual tradition. In order to trace both their reflection of and influence on each other, this paper seeks to rupture the alliance of these terms with their clinical 'pseudonyms' of mental illness and creativity. Drawing on preceding psychiatric research, as well as both literary criticism and anthropological theory, this paper traces the patchwork of metaphors and cultural imaginings that make up the genius/madness myth-the socio-cultural construction of genius through madness. With particular focus on the cyclical processes of cultural mythmaking it tracks the elements of this construction, initially diachronically, and then through psychiatry and its effect on social thought. Finally, an assessment of the social implications of this myth illustrates that not only is genius socio-culturally constructed through madness but that madness itself is also fabricated through genius in the binding circularity of societal mythmaking. The paper argues that this socio-cultural construction legitimates and elevates, shackles and constrains, having societal implications far beyond the reaches of its own confines.

Full Text Links

Find Full Text Links for this Article


You are not logged in. Sign Up or Log In to join the discussion.

Related Papers

Remove bar
Read by QxMD icon Read

Save your favorite articles in one place with a free QxMD account.


Search Tips

Use Boolean operators: AND/OR

diabetic AND foot
diabetes OR diabetic

Exclude a word using the 'minus' sign

Virchow -triad

Use Parentheses

water AND (cup OR glass)

Add an asterisk (*) at end of a word to include word stems

Neuro* will search for Neurology, Neuroscientist, Neurological, and so on

Use quotes to search for an exact phrase

"primary prevention of cancer"
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) AND arrest -"American Heart Association"