Diagnosing Genius

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Frederick Chopin wrote music in the grip of vivid hallucinations, possibly caused by temporal lobe epilepsy.

Countless artists – Edgar Allan Poe, Sylvia Plath, William Blake, and Lewis Carroll, to name just a few – have also been diagnosed with neurological conditions in an attempt to explain, in part, their genius. The field of neurotheology – pinning spiritual experiences to scientific causes –  is largely behind these diagnoses, and “a desire to secularize genius, or to democratize it, and in some cases, to do away with the notion of genius altogether.” But many are holding fast to notions of other-worldly talent and the sublime.

(via Arts & Letters Daily)


Jill Haberkern has lived in a one-room house made of tombstones and a farmhouse with a walrus head. She currently lives in Berkeley, California, with neither. Her writing has appeared in the Mid-American Review. More from this author →