Creativity and Mental Illness: Sigmund Freud and Sylvia Plath

I have long been interested in the connection between mental illness and creativity. My latest novel, A Dangerous Daughter, describes how psychoanalysis was used to cure a mental illness and to unlock the main character’s creativity. Some of our greatest artists, writers and musicians suffered some form of mental illness while producing brilliant and lasting works of art. Many of the 20th century’s great writers, including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Schumann,Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda Fitzgerald, and William Styron, suffered from mental illness.  In this article by Jahnavi Ravishankar “Sylvia Plath– A Caged Darkness of the Mind”, the writer extrapolates how Freud, the Father of Psychoanalysis, might have analysed the poet and author Sylvia Plath, who suffered what would now be called a bipolar condition, and made several suicide attempts before succeeding in 1963. In this abridged version, Ravishankar analyses Plath’s famous poem, ‘Daddy” in Freudian terms (see poem attached): .“Sylvia Plath, a renowned American poet, was clinically depressed for most of her life and eventually became a victim of suicide at the age of Bnb thirty. The “Ariel” poems, including ‘I am Vertical and ‘Daddy’, were written shortly before she died. and posthumously garnered acclaim. These poems painted a vivid image of her inner psyche. Sigmund Freud’s position that the artist is a successful neurotic has been contested but, at the same time, has served as a key focal point for several psychoanalytic theories in literature. In his essay, ‘Creative Writers and Daydreaming’, he states, “The […]

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Can we separate Art from Life?

‘To value a piece of work does not require us to applaud its creator.” (Ashleigh Wilson, On Artists, MUP, 2019) Or does it? Do we have to love the artist to love the work? Think of Pablo Picasso, Roman Polanski, Woody Allen. All can be judged as having questionable morals. If, like me, you’ve always enjoyed movies such as Allen’s […]

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