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Dionysus in Literature

Essays on Literary Madness

Edited by Branimir M. Rieger

Publication Year: 1994

In this anthology, outstanding authorities present their assessments of literary madness in a variety of topics and approaches. The entire collection of essays presents intriguing aspects of the Dionysian element in literature.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

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Introduction. Dionysus in Literature: Essays on Literary Madness

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pp. 1-15

What exactly is meant by "Madness in literature?" How can this thematic phrase aid in the understanding of literature? Does it refer to the writer, the abnormal behavior of the characters or some nexus? Does it refer to the writings of madmen or the actions of mad protagonists? Is literary madness similar to the clinical madness of...

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Literary Theories and the Concept of Madness

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pp. 17-31

When I was a student at Heidelberg, the professor of our lecture course in "Modern Experimental Lyrics," the late Alfred Liede, sounded quite emphatic: "Mental illness cannot be an issue for literary study—it doesn't lead anywhere." No doubt such a reservation was especially strategic when dealing with the poetry of...

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Are Creative Writers Mad? An Empirical Perspective

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pp. 33-48

Are creativity and "madness" related?' This broad question, when posed within a literary context, actually contains several questions. Does a relationship between madness and creativity exist in writers, and if so, does it differ between novelists, poets, playwrights and other practitioners of literary expression? Further, is...

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Through a Lens, Darkly

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pp. 49-57

Film, even from its silent days in the 1920s, has proven to be an art form particularly suitable for handling intimate psychological subjects. It is a medium of observation, the almost clinical recording of human behavior, with every nuance of expression and gesture enhanced in the close-up. As a highly controlled flow of...

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A Horneyan Approach to American Literature

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pp. 59-70

This essay is related to a psychological study of American life, tentatively titled In Sickness and in Health: A Psychological Approach to U.S. History and Culture. This book-in-progress goes beyond works that are founded on biology-based psychology (Freudian psychoanalysis), using theories that take cultural...

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The Lineage of Mad Scientists: Anti-types of Merlin

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pp. 71-88

How does a popular literature generate its icons? In Billion Year Spree: The True History of Science Fiction, Brian Aldiss implies that the origins of the science fiction genre and the mad scientist figure are coeval in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus. In Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction...

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Madness, Masochism and Morality: Dostoyevsky and His Underground Man

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pp. 89-100

Fyodor Dostoyevsky may well have been the greatest "psychological novelist" of the nineteenth century, or even of all time. His themes and characters prefigured many of the terms and insights coined, or discovered, by Freud and other founders of modern psychiatry. His characters, especially the Underground...

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Hamlet: Madness and the Eye of the Reader

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pp. 101-112

When Olivier made his Academy Award-winning movie of Hamlet in 1948, he loaded the spectator's response at the beginning by announcing in a portentous voice-over: "This is the tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind." Stephen Booth, writing "On the Value of Hamlet" in 1969, turns the formula...

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Vision, Madness, Myth and William Blake

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pp. 113-132

To an artist's reputation, the taint of madness is the touch of death .. Far better to be called a drunkard, a criminal or a letch; to be branded mad is simply lethal. And once so disposed of, a reputation is difficult to resurrect. For madness serves as a boundary beyond which all meanings fall silent, all art proves mere parody...

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Postmortem Diagnoses of Virginia Woolf's "Madness": The Precarious Quest for Truth

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pp. 133-147

The reputation of British writer Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) is now well established. Her brilliance as a writer is seldom contested, and her place in the literary canon is assured. Whether interested in literary traditions, textual studies, applied feminism, or postmodern theory, most scholars and critics admire what she had to say...

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Herman Melville and "The Sane Madness of Vital Truth"

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pp. 149-167

In "Hawthorne and His Mosses," Herman Melville's review of Nathaniel Hawthorne's Mosses from an Old Manse, he formulated a phrase which illuminates his own works more than those of Hawthorne. In comparing Hawthorne to Shakespeare he says that Shakespeare through his "dark characters," such as Hamlet, Lear...

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Inmates Running the Asylum: The Institution in Contemporary American Fiction

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pp. 169-182

Numerous critics—from Ortega y Gassett to T. S. Eliot, Louis Rubin and Leslie Fiedler to Susan Sontag and Norman Podhoretzhave—taken up the cry of the curious death of the novel. But the novel is not dead; the postwar experimental novel in particular is alive, well (though largely misunderstood)—and in search not...

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Faulkner and the Furies

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pp. 183-196

In many works, Faulkner—whether by design or inadvertently— seems to take a particularly Greek view of madness. To be insane or demoniacal is, for whatever reason, to disobey the Delphic admonition—"Nothing in excess." Again and again, major characters show something very close to what the Greeks called...

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Images of the Shaman in the Works of Kurt Vonnegut

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pp. 197-208

George Bernard Shaw accounted for the savage unreasonableness of mankind by suggesting that some alien world was using the earth as its insane asylum, dropping lunatics off at regular intervals. For such writers as John Barth, Joseph Heller, Thomas Pynchon and Kurt Vonnegut, Shaw's observation of...

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Stephen King's Misery: Manic Depression and Creativity

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pp. 209-220

Pyrokinesis in Carrie and Firestarter. Vampires in 'Salem's Lot. The wendigo in Pet Sematary. A haunted hotel in The Shining and a haunted automobile in Christine. These works and their preoccupation with the paranormal or even supernatural have caused best-selling novelist Stephen King to be identified as a writer...

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The Class Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest: A Theme Course on "Madness in Literature"

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pp. 221-229

When Lander University revised its general education curriculum in the early 1980s, the concept of a theme or idea course devised for sophomore literature was part of the overhaul. In addition to the already entrenched, traditional survey courses in English, American and World Literature, it was decided that a fourth...


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pp. 231-233

E-ISBN-13: 9780299278731
Print-ISBN-13: 9780879726508

Publication Year: 1994