(n.); an unwell feeling, particularly in the head; a moody depression; c. 1918, from Nevil Shute’s The Rose and the Rainbow
The archetype of the mad genius dates back to at least classical times, when Aristotle noted, “Those who have been eminent in philosophy, politics, poetry, and the arts have all had tendencies toward melancholia.”
—“Secrets of the Creative Brain,” Nancy C. Andreasan
F. Scott Fitzgerald. Virginia Woolf. Kurt Vonnegut. David Foster Wallace. These are only a very few of the long list of literary masters whose struggles with despair are well-known and well-documented, through their own words as well as through the words of others.
Mental illness, or at least instability, and creative genius historically go hand in hand. In particular, artistic insight and depression are frequently linked, although other forms of mental illness, from schizophrenia to hypomania, are also frequent companions of the creative mind. These tragic bedfellows have been the study of many a psychologist, in hopes of understanding why art and illness are so often connected. For an interesting and up-to-date overview of current studies in this area, wind your way through this recent Scientific American article by S. B. Kaufman. And earlier this summer, psychologist and literary enthusiast Nancy C. Andreasan published some of her findings from years of studying creative geniuses, including Vonnegut himself.