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Hamilton, J.W. (1981). James Dickey's Deliverance: Mid-Life and the Creative Process. Am. Imago, 38(4):389-405.

(1981). American Imago, 38(4):389-405

James Dickey's Deliverance: Mid-Life and the Creative Process

James W. Hamilton, M.D.

It was Jaques (1965) who directed clinical attention to the emotional discord that occurs in an individual's life commencing in the mid-to late thirties and extending for an indefinite period. He first became aware of this entity, which he labelled the mid-life crisis, through his reading of the lives of great artists where he noted three particular patterns of adaptation:

the creative career may simply come to an end, either in a drying-up of creative work, or in actual death; the creative capacity may begin to show and express itself for the first time; or a decisive change in the quality and concept of creativeness may take place.

Jaques distinguishes between two forms of the creative process, “hot-from-the fire creativity,” which is confined to the 20's and 30's, best exemplified by Keats, Mozart, Shelley, and Rimbaud; and “sculpted creativity,” which appears in the late 30's, epitomized by Dante. The former is characterized by immediate and spontaneous production of a given work, while in the latter “inspiration may be hot and intense. The unconscious work is no less clear than before. But there is a big step between the first effusion of inspiration and the finished creative product.” According to Jaques, these are not separate and discrete categories but may overlap in the career of a given artist.

The reason for the above difference in creative styles is the mid-life crisis, essentially, a depressive reaction precipitated by the breakdown of unconscious denial and manic defenses which hitherto had managed to minimize awareness of individual mortality and the presence of destructive impulses.

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