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Creativity and Madness: New Findings and Old Stereotypes [Paperback]

Albert Rothenberg
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 1 1994
Intrigued by history's list of "troubled geniuses,"Albert Rothenberg investigates how two such opposite conditions-outstanding creativity and psychosis-could coexist in the same individual. Rothenberg concludes that high-level creativity transcends the usual modes of logical thought-and may even superficially resemble psychosis. But he also discovers that all types of creative thinking generally occur in a rational and conscious frame of mind, not in a mystically altered or transformed state. Far from being the source-or the price-of creativity, Rothenberg discovers, psychosis and other forms of mental illness are actually hindrances to creative work. Disturbed writers and absent-minded professors make great characters in fiction, but Rothenberg has uncovered an even better story-the virtually infinite creative potential of healthy human beings.

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Review

This intriguing theory will no doubt provoke lively debate both in and outside professional circles. For lay readers, however, the book's real pleasure lies in the substantive analyses of Sylvia Plath, August Strindberg, Emily Dickenson, Tennessee Williams, Eugene O'Neill, and William Faulkner. Wilson Library Bulletin Albert Rothenberg has devoted the major part of a distinguished career to a broad program of research on creativity. In his excellent, concise volume, he reports his current views on this fascinating subject... It is well-argued and judicious and, therefore, a useful introduction to the domain of creativity research. Journal of the American Medical Association

About the Author

Albert Rothenberg, M.D., is clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard University and director of research at the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. His books include The Emerging Goddess: The Creative Process in Art, Science, and Other Fields.

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First Sentence
To start with, let me tell you some stories or, if you will, myths. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most helpful customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Rothenberg's false prophecy June 13 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Rothenberg's 1994 book claims to have supposedly "debunked" the "myth" between creativity and madness based on his "new findings and old stereotypes" that many geniuses such as aristotle have proclaimed a link between the two for thousands of years. He states that previous studies linking bipolar disorder to creativity were biased and a link to schizophrenia is nonexistent. He bases this on sketchy evidence with nobel laureates where there responses to a creativity test called a word association test had a slightly different response style then psychotics. He then comes to the narrow conclusion that creativity is mostly based on juxtaposition and homospatial thinking which he contends is the part of the test that nobel laureates have scored high in and psychotics didn't based on the results of his word association test.
However, since then a rigourous longitudinal study has come out in a book called "The Price of Greatness: Resolving the Creativity and Madness Controversy" found that Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia like psychosis, and other disorders are Much more prevalent among creatively eminent people then they are found in the general population. Studies by Hans Eysenck and others have also shown that psychopathology (or personality traits that predispose to psychosis) is much higher in creative people then in non-creative people in the general population. Also relatives of people with mental disorders are on average more creative then in the general population. To top it all off a study done by Peter Jordanson and colleagues has found one of the biological basis to creativity, which is that creative people score low on measures of latent inhibition which measure one's openness to novel stimuli or new possibilities.
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1.0 out of 5 stars a poor study Sept. 27 2000
Format:Paperback
a medical doctor who likes the santity of a black-white boxed world of classification, forces theory in lieu of rationalization, esp. in the chapter on homosexuality and its relationship to the creative endevor. a blurred, inconsistant work that should be avoided when researching this topic
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Psychiatrist Looks at Creativity June 28 1999
Format:Paperback
Rothenberg looks at creativity from the perspective of a scientist. He examines psychological ideas- Freudian, depression, bi-polar, schizophrenia; linguistic trends- use of alliteration, metaphors, rhymes; personality characteristics- motivated, determined, and able to organize one's ideas; and relates them all to his search for answers to why some can create such wonderful works of art. He dispells myths about creativity being some mystical birth-right that only the chosen few possess, and implies the conclusion that creativity is more the product of an aware mind and feeling human being than tormented genius. Good book, quick read.
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Amazon.com: 3.4 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Psychiatrist Looks at Creativity June 28 1999
By brunojs@earthlink.net - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Rothenberg looks at creativity from the perspective of a scientist. He examines psychological ideas- Freudian, depression, bi-polar, schizophrenia; linguistic trends- use of alliteration, metaphors, rhymes; personality characteristics- motivated, determined, and able to organize one's ideas; and relates them all to his search for answers to why some can create such wonderful works of art. He dispells myths about creativity being some mystical birth-right that only the chosen few possess, and implies the conclusion that creativity is more the product of an aware mind and feeling human being than tormented genius. Good book, quick read.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting insights about creativity Sept. 26 2004
By C. Stephans - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I found Rothenberg's insights about the characteristics of creativity the most meaningful ideas in the book. He has learned several methods of those who are creative, and these are helpful anyone wanting to be creative or help someone else like a child become creative.

He does a good job debunking some of the myths that associate creativity with mental illness by showing several cases of mentally ill creators. He shows that their creative times did not coincide with the severe bouts of mental illness.

He profiles a few artists, Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson, Eugene O'Neil, and JOhn Cheever among others. It is interesting to read how these successful people dealt effectively or ineffectively with mental illness.

The author offers his conclusions about creativity and its association with mental illness. Whether they are ultimately conclusive, the reader can decide. He is a thorough researcher and writer, so this is a book worth reading if you are interested in the subject matter.
24 of 33 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Rothenberg's false prophecy June 13 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Rothenberg's 1994 book claims to have supposedly "debunked" the "myth" between creativity and madness based on his "new findings and old stereotypes" that many geniuses such as aristotle have proclaimed a link between the two for thousands of years. He states that previous studies linking bipolar disorder to creativity were biased and a link to schizophrenia is nonexistent. He bases this on sketchy evidence with nobel laureates where there responses to a creativity test called a word association test had a slightly different response style then psychotics. He then comes to the narrow conclusion that creativity is mostly based on juxtaposition and homospatial thinking which he contends is the part of the test that nobel laureates have scored high in and psychotics didn't based on the results of his word association test.
However, since then a rigourous longitudinal study has come out in a book called "The Price of Greatness: Resolving the Creativity and Madness Controversy" found that Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia like psychosis, and other disorders are Much more prevalent among creatively eminent people then they are found in the general population. Studies by Hans Eysenck and others have also shown that psychopathology (or personality traits that predispose to psychosis) is much higher in creative people then in non-creative people in the general population. Also relatives of people with mental disorders are on average more creative then in the general population. To top it all off a study done by Peter Jordanson and colleagues has found one of the biological basis to creativity, which is that creative people score low on measures of latent inhibition which measure one's openness to novel stimuli or new possibilities. People with mental illness, particularly Schizophrenics, also score low on latent inhibition showing they have a trait that is essential for creativity, and that creative achievers also have. Of course Rothenberg obviously wasn't open to this possibility (which has now been scientifically proven), when he wrote this book. While at the same time other creativity researchers were (go figure). While Rothenberg's theory does have some truth in it such as obvious facts that creative achievement and insanity aren't the same thing and in fact that insanity in itself can be destructive to creative achievement; or that not all mentally ill people necessarily become eminent creative achievers. His main premise of the book that there is no link between creativity and madness has been proven false and it is clear that he was probably the one who was biased against any association between creativity and madness to begin with.
Then again psychiatrists, which are in the same profession as Rothenberg, often note that there is some truth in every delusion. Which I suppose means that even though "new findings and old stereotypes" has disproven Rothenberg's "delusion" (or false belief) of their not being any link between creativity and madness, his "delusional theory" should not be thought of as not being true at all. As he does make some (although mostly obvious) points about the subject in his book.
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay Book Jan. 31 2014
By Dion Lucas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book met most of my needs. However, there were some good points made in the book dealing with people with mental conditions.
5.0 out of 5 stars Creative Insight Explained July 28 2013
By Rebecca - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This well-researched book delves into the nature of creativity. The madness comes in because truly creative minds, whether artistic or scientific, unavoidably function on the razor's edge of the boundary between reality and imagination, fact and fiction, sanity and insanity. Not all creative people struggle with falling off the edge into mental and emotional instability, but a higher percentage of people in the creative fields do have this experience when compared to average thinkers and workers. What I found most helpful are Rothenberg's elucidation of two key aspects of mental processing that lead to true creative thought: 1. what Rothenberg calls Janusian thinking, the fact that certain minds can conceive multiple opposites (antitheses) simultaneously - something can be true and not true at the same time, for example; and 2. the homospatial process, which is essentially metaphorical thinking, whereby a "thing" can be understood from more than one point of view at the same time, or can become a synthesis of disparate things, such as a character in a novel incorporates aspects of more than one person in the author's consciousness. Einstein's theory of relativity is another example; as I write this review I am sitting still but I am also moving at a phenomenal speed as I ride the earth on its orbit around the sun. For me the book reinforced concepts I already understood to be true and have myself experienced, and it was a springboard to further reading, beginning with Kay Redfield Jamison's Exuberance.
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