* ®ock & £iter@ture *

Books enlarge the ability to think... Music enlarges the ability to dream...

* Hysteria * (Def Leppard)


It is a well-known fact that many writers, singers, poets, philosophers and artists -people in general who were considered geniuses- were mad or alcoholic, prone to rages, losers, substance abusers, self centred, loners, women harassers, manic depressives or suicidal.


Consider Virginia Woolf. She wrote a novel called Mrs Dalloway in 1925. One of the characters of the novel is Septimus Warren Smith. Septimus, a veteran of World War I, suffers from shell shock and is lost within his own mind. He has removed himself from the physical world. Instead, he lives in an internal world, wherein he sees and hears things that aren’t really there and he talks to his dead friend Evans. He hears the sparrows sing in Greek and chirping his name. Septimus chooses to escape his problems by killing himself. Virginia Woolf herself admitted hearing “voices” in her head and dreaded going mad again. (She was in and out of sanatoriums all her life.)  She filled her pockets with heavy stones and drowned herself in a river. Her great novels deal with madness and anguish.


Coleridge took opium for blinding headaches, and Byron had rages. Edgar Allan Poe, best known for his tales of the macabre and mystery, was an alcohol and drug abuser. In his short story The Fall of The House of Usher, Poe tells the story of Madeline and her brother Roderick Usher. They have been afflicted with a mysterious malady: Roderick's senses have become painfully acute, while Madeline has become catatonic. Roderick tells his guest of an old Usher family curse: any time there has been more than one Usher child, all of the siblings have gone insane and died horrible deaths. Madeline means, in fact, "mad line".


Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher, went mad and died mad. The famous writer Sylvia Plath was only 30 when she put some milk and bread beside her sleeping toddlers, shoved newspaper in the space between the door and the floor, and gassed herself in her oven. In the months preceeding her death she had written her darkest and most brilliant poems.


Robert Lovell, regarded by many as the best poet since World War II, was repeatedly hospitalised for mental illness to his death, in 1977. Newton, Beethoven, Dickens, and van Gogh suffered from mood disorders.


Rock has not been the exception and it has used the subject of madness and mental disorders as its main source of inspiration. Examples of songs bearing a name connected with insanity are Paranoid (Black Sabbath), Psycho Circus (KISS), Crazy (Aerosmith) and Hysteria (Def Leppard) as well as the albums Diary of a Madman (Ozzy Osbourne), Piece of Mind -pun on Peace of Mind- (Iron Maiden) and Metal Health -pun on Mental Health- (Quiet Riot).


* My point of view:


Talking about insanity and madness, the etymology of some words connected with this topic are quite interesting. Hysteria, for example, derives from the Latin word hystericus, which means "of the womb" and it was originally applied to women thought to be suffering from disturbances of the womb. The word lunatic derives from the Latin luna (moon) and it means "to be influenced by the moon".


There seems to be a close connection between creativity and  madness or mental disorders. Socrates wrote centuries ago: “All extraordinary men distinguished in philosophy, politics, poetry and the arts are melancholic.” Mad or not, I will always love and admire those who, through their talent, brightened up my life and fed my spirit!


* The question:


Can you cite other examples in which the connection between insanity and genius is clear to see?