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Review Meyers Jeffrey The Greek Idea of Disease Madness and Art published in the World and I January 1999 pp 318-324 Jeffrey Meyers has authored thirty-nine books including celebrated biographies of twentieth century literary masters Orwell Hemmingway and Fitzgerald Meyers is also a Fellow of Londons prestigious Royal Society of Literature In this article Meyers compares mans present-day attitudes towards disease madness and creativity to the ideas held by ancient Greeks Meyers asserts that while the modern perception of illness both mental and physical is generally negative disease related to creative imagination is almost always embraced Ancient Greeks considered disease a fascinating subject and thought illness to be indicative of an individuals relationship with the gods Meyers presents two ancient Greek philosophies that explain how disease fuels creativity The Greeks believed that illness and mental disease as caused by the gods gave a person psychic knowledge spiritual power and creative genius Since the Greeks believed art paralleled knowledge creative genius was only accessible to those who paid the price of physical or mental suffering The second Greek explanation for creative genius employs the idea that the spirit of Dionysus possessed the humanly body and all expression was a reflection of the Spirit itself The author writes the poet cannot compose anything worth calling poetry until he becomes inspired and as it were or whilst any reason remains in him Meyers qualifies his statements with evidence taken from Sophocles play Philoctetes Platos dialogues and more recent works by Nietzche and Thomas Mann Meyers article beautifully illustrates the irony in modern and ancient cultures thoughts towards illness and artistic creativity It is undeniable that society embraces our manic hopelessly romantic poets and drug-crazed pop singers However Meyers article also raises a provocative question about the realm of creativity Meyers suggests creative genius via mental illness is exclusive only to the interpretive arts Dr WC Minor a Civil War veteran who
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