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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A Dangerous Daughter: the poem

This poem tells the story of my novel, ‘A Dangerous Daughter’ without the details, plot twists, and characters in the novel. I promise no Spoilers! Let me know what you think of my poem. A Dangerous Daughter She wakes with a jolt, Already late. Morning tea break. Her limbs all ache. She swings legs to the edge, Mere bones like twigs Skin stretched over, Dry as sedge. She moves from the bed, Slow and painful. Everything hurts, Her heart and her head. Smells hot buttered toast, Craves just a taste. The tiniest crumb Will seal her fate. Pulls on a skirt Her gaunt frame bent. To hide her shame, A top like a tent. She could be ninety, But is only fifteen. Her shrivelled body Mustn’t be seen. You’ve blighted our lives Daughter once dear. The devil’s got you We’re the victims here. They send her away Out of their sight So they can forget Their shame and fright. Exiled from her kin, Across the land, Girl hides her sin As best she can Aunt’s teagown strains. Over ample breasts. “Just look at the state of you, It’s wicked,” she says. “Going out like that? In the ground I will sink. You’ll frighten the neighbours. What will they think?” Girl shakes her head Runs a comb through her hair. A quick flick, no more And she’s out the door. She has a disease It has no name. It brings her […]

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