Reflections on Suffering and the Pathologization of Genius

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In the eighteenth century, medical doctors and psychiatrists avant la lettre started to examine geniuses from the past, because they noticed how many great minds seemed to have suffered mentally and physically. Egodocuments were an important source from which they made pathological interpretations, often quoting selectively and without proper context. At the same time, artists and writers found inspiration in testimonies of geniuses, while they also wrote down their own personal struggles and encounters in diaries and letters – despite awareness of possible pathological interpretations and their own legacy (knowing their personal statements would be published posthumously). In the nineteenth and twentieth century, both medical and personal sources flourished, but in my paper I would like to focus on these first examples in the second half of the eighteenth century and early nineteenth century, exploring how personal reflections on suffering, related to other geniuses and possible diagnoses, were expressed, such as Rousseau, and Delacroix.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2023
EventEgodocuments and Privacy in the Early Modern Era - University of Lodz, Lodz, Poland
Duration: 18 Oct 202319 Oct 2023


ConferenceEgodocuments and Privacy in the Early Modern Era
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