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Tip: To review the bibliography…

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It is always useful to review an article’s bibliography and references to get a deeper understanding of the psychoanalytic concepts and theoretical framework in it.

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Coltrera, J.T. (1998). The Artist and the Emotional World: Creativity and Personality. By John E. Gedo.: New York: Columbia University Press, 1996, 288 pp., $18.00 paperback. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 46(4):1297-1304.

(1998). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 46(4):1297-1304

The Artist and the Emotional World: Creativity and Personality. By John E. Gedo.: New York: Columbia University Press, 1996, 288 pp., $18.00 paperback

Review by:
Joseph T. Coltrera

In The Artist and the Emotional World, John Gedo does not so much present a psychoanalytic theory of creativity as make an empirical summary statement of some forty years of clinical work with the creative personality. Gedo prefers the notion of personality when addressing the enduring qualities that mark the creative person, rather than that of character, with its moral overtones. Gedo goes on, however, to treat the aesthetic of the artist as very much a moral choice, as indeed it is. Consequently, a weathering of superego aggression may be taken as a significant benchmark for terminating a creative patient, along with the rise of directive superego functions to codeterminacy with its punitive ones. And herein lies the great virtue of this book, the possibility of not only an intellectual dialogue but a clinical one as well. Sad to say, few psychoanalytic commentaries offer clinical examples or expositions of their thesis, so that applied psychoanalysis has become almost the last refuge of “wild” analysis. Much to Gedo's credit, his corroborating study of some fifty great creative personalities is conducted in accord with accepted biographical and art history methodologies and rules of evidence.

Like Gedo, I do not believe in the idea of a decisive moment in creative psychopathology. The artist may fall sick, but the sickness does not make the art. To think of the creative person as inherently flawed and deflected from madness only by the creative act is among the oldest of aesthetic theories.

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