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Genius and Madness
GRST 291
Fall 2006
Section: 01  
Crosslisting: COL 281

This course will explore the popular conception of an intimate link between genius and madness from the perspectives of literature and philosophy. Aristotle is said to have claimed that there is no genius without a tinge of madness. The philosopher Adorno warned of a glorification of the original genius: "The producers of important artworks are no demigods but often neurotic and damaged people." We will consider crucial historical examples of the intersection of exceptional artistic ability and mental illness. Examples will include the evolution of the notions of madness and genius in ancient Greek tragedy and philosophy, the hugely influential aesthetic paradigm of genius in Kantian aesthetics and its successors, the clichéd but culturally persistent problem of eccentric musical genius, the role of madness in 19th- and 20th-century philosophy, the idea of artistic creativity "under the sign of Saturn," vacillating between mania and depression, the destruction of the myth of genius in stories by Grillparzer and Kafka, and Harold Bloom's recent attempt to revive genius as a critical category. We will also investigate debates about and depictions of artistic creativity in terms of divine inspiration, enthusiasm, possession, and its unsettling proximity to rage, transgression, and destruction, and consider the ideological implications of how our culture values originality and authenticity.

Essential Capabilities: Speaking, Writing
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA GRST
Course Format: DiscussionGrading Mode: Student Option
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: None
Past Enrollment Probability: Not Available

Last Updated on JUN-16-2024
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