Did Dryden Get It Right?
Seneca wrote, "There is no great genius without a tincture of madness," and William Wordsworth noted, "We poets in our youth begin in gladness, but thereof comes in the end despondency and madness." Shakespeare wrote, "The lunatic, the lover, and the poet, are of imagination all compact." Most notably, in 1681, John Dryden wrote a phrase that is often quoted today: "Great wits are sure to madness near ally'd, and thin partitions do their bounds divide."
Psychologist Grant Rich, reviewing Judith Schlesinger's The Insanity Hoax: Exposing the Myth of the Mad Genius, ends his review by commenting, "I suspect the jury is still out on the mad genius controversy."
There are few issues in psychology more hotly debated. But why is the jury still out? Why has it been so very hard for psychologists to use science to resolve this seemingly simple question: Is there any relationship between creativity and certain forms of mental illness?
By Grant J. Rich
PsycCRITIQUES, 2012 Vol 57(28)