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The medical dangers of literary genius

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/10/2016
<mark>Journal</mark>Literature and Medicine
Issue number2
Volume34
Number of pages21
Pages (from-to)299-319
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This essay examines three key texts, by William Buchan, Isaac D’Israeli, and Richard Robert Madden, which demonstrate the emergence of the newly conceived idea of literary genius in the Romantic period. It considers the role of a new genre, the “medical biography”, in the development of this phenomenon. While the mental precariousness of the Romantic genius has been much commented upon, this essay concentrates instead on the bodily or physical aspects of genius, which is itself figured as a disease. The study and writing involved in publication are viewed as stimulants that can be addictive, ruining the health and wellbeing of authors and even leading to their early deaths.