Poetry, Madness and Cure

Society's definitions

Society and Madness

As Professor Philip Thomas (Lancaster University) says "There have always been people in societies and cultures who have different experiences of reality compared with the majority, and there's always been an overlap between people who have those gifts, or insights, and people who are identified as suffering from mental illnesses." ... "it's the strangeness of people's experience, and what they try to communicate about it, that's dangerous, threatening, anxiety-provoking to those of us who have conventional rationalities"

Society's opinion about madness and how to deal with it varies - isolationism, integration, or normalisation have been tried. Foucault argues that with the gradual disappearance of leprosy, madness came to occupy this excluded position. The ship of fools in the 15th century is a literary version of one such exclusionary practice, the practice of sending mad people away in ships.

Society and Creativity

The nature of creativity is another socially defined variable. In the 19th Century, Sass writes, the tradition of the romantic poet was the paradigm of a creative human. Eccentrics and outsiders had more trouble in some other times.

Useful Madness Traits

Schizophrenia and depression are the mental illness most linked to creativity in the historical context says Dr. Schuldberg. Most often, artists who

Some traits associated with these illnesses could be seen as useful to writers.


Some of these traits suit particular movements.


Once a writer is stigmatised as in some way different or impaired, solutions are offered. If nothing else, normalisation increases the chances of being published.

Poetry and Therapy



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Updated in July, 2007