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Joseph, R.J. (1969). John Ruskin: Radical and Psychotic Genius. Psychoanal. Rev., 56C(3):425-441.

(1969). Psychoanalytic Review, 56C(3):425-441

John Ruskin: Radical and Psychotic Genius

Robert J. Joseph, M.D.

John Ruskin is a nineteenth-century literary figure who has been considered to be manic depressive. The history, diagnosis and dynamics will be reviewed. In the past few years, with the publication of a new biography and selections from his diaries and writings, there has been a revival of interest in his life and work. This man lived a life of much variety, acknowledged social value, and with special interest for psychiatry from several points of view.

Ruskin was overtly psychotic for the last ten years of his life and at intervals during the preceding decades. In spite of this, he was able to achieve recognition as an author, artistic critic, architectural critic, social reformer, poet and artist. He has been acknowledged by Clement Attlee2, 3 to have been the spiritual founder of the British Labour Party and by Mohandas Ghandi12 to have been responsible for much of his early thought about social justice which led ultimately to the concept of passive resistance and the independence movement for India. His commentaries on art and society have relevance for the psychology of artistic creativity and for social psychiatry, but these topics are somewhat beyond the scope of this paper.

As one might expect, relationships exist between his life and work and the content and form of his illness. There are drawbacks to any attempts to discuss either the diagnosis or the psychodynamics of a person who is not available for clinical observation and validation of hypotheses.

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