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Slochower, H. (1967). Genius, Psychopathology and Creativity. Am. Imago, 24(1-2):3-5.

(1967). American Imago, 24(1-2):3-5

Genius, Psychopathology and Creativity

Harry Slochower

This symposium, centering in the relation of genius, psychopathology and creativity, was stimulated by the reaction to Eissler's thesis on this problem, presented in his books on Leonardo da Vinci and more comprehensively on Goethe. The essays in this issue ought to help clarify the question and encourage further discussion.

Eissler makes a distinction between the sickness of a genius and that of an average talent. In the case of the genius, disease can have the function of dissolving the rigidities which block the flow of the creative process. This point has affinity to Freud's notion of “Lockerung,” which pertains to the loosening of ego structure in artistic creativity. To be sure, where such flexibility is not checked, we tend to get surrealistic absurdities, and finally, the breakdown of form, or the dissolution of art itself.

On the methodological level, the question has been raised as to the relative fruitfulness of the topographic and the genetic-historic model on the one hand, and the structural model on the other hand, by which the problem of creativity is approached. Some discussants appear to make a sharp distinction between the two approaches and, in stressing the structural, give the impression that the creative genius gains a kind of “secondary autonomy.”

It seems to me that such either-or choice is undialectic. One can formulate the structural model in Heinz Kohut's terms which allow for the interaction of non-pathological functions with “those essential classical findings and formulations of psychoanalysis which had been derived from the study of dreams and of psychopathology.”

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