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Gedo, J.E. (1972). On the Psychology of Genius. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 53:199-203.

(1972). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 53:199-203

On the Psychology of Genius

John E. Gedo

One of the characteristic preoccupations of psychoanalysis has long been the effort to penetrate the psychological mystery of human creativity. Freud's humble but many-faceted approach to this conundrum began with the correspondence with Fliess (Freud, 1950) and included a study of aspects of the personality of a supreme genius, Leonardo da Vinci, as early as 1910. Since then, there have been repeated attempts to apply analytic insights to the lives and works of men of genius, not the least of which has been Jones' masterful biography of Freud himself (1953–7).

The tools of applied analysis have often yielded suggestive results; at this time, I can only mention the greatest achievement in this field, Eissler's monumental examination of a decade in the life of Goethe (1963). This work contains a cogent formulation of the psychology of genius (Appendix T); it also discusses the numerous methodological difficulties inherent in the use of biographical records and the created products of the genius as the raw material for our studies. In spite of these handicaps of the applied approach, clinical reports about creative persons who have been analysed have been exceedingly scarce (cf. Bychowski, 1947), (1951); (Giovacchini, 1960), (1965); (Greenacre, 1957); (Heimann, 1942); (Niederland, 1967). The ones I have been able to find have never made the claim that the patients described truly belong in the category of genius, and the focus of these presentations has generally avoided the central question of its nature.

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