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Strong Imagination: Madness, Creativity and Human Nature Hardcover – May 3, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0198507062 ISBN-10: 0198507062 Edition: 1st ed

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1st ed edition (May 3, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198507062
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198507062
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 0.9 x 5.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #612,492 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"This fascinating, lucid book is surprisingly short, in view of the breadth and depth of information covered."--BMJ

"David Nettle has ... written a stimulating book which ... make[s] the very important point that a dimensional, rather than categorical, perspective is likely to be much more rewarding for psychiatry."--The London Times

About the Author

Daniel Nettle studied psychology at Oxford, before completing his PhD in Anthropology at University College London. In 1996 he was elected a Junior Research Fellow at Merton College, Oxford. He has lectured in London, Oxford, Cambridge and Nigeria, and written widely across many areas of the human sciences. He is also active in the theatre. He lives in Oxford.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Twilly on December 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm a writer with manic depression who is bothered by the way mental illness is romanticized within the writing community. So many people I know believe that writers with manic depression should not take medication because it will "kill" their creativity. I find this attitude really offensive -- not just because it is false -- but also because it puts manic-depressive writers and artists in danger. I have found very few resources that adequately address this issue, very few books that explain why allowing full blown psychosis to developed is a bad idea, not just for the health of the person in question, but for his or her creativity as well. Daniel Nettle really hit this one it on the head as far as I'm concerned.

I was particularly drawn into the parts of the book that dealt with the "nature vs. nuture" argument, and the history behind each way of thinking. This information is complex but assessable. I read the book in just a few sittings.

Don't get me wrong -- this is no dumbed down self-help book. This is a heady and academic work, full of carefully thought out arguments. Bring your brain and a lot of sticky arrows to mark your favorite passages. My book is now full of them.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By New Age of Barbarism on October 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The lunatic, the lover, and the poet

Are of imagination all compact.

- _A Midsummer Night's Dream_, William Shakespeare.

_Strong Imagination: Madness, Creativity, and Human Nature_ by anthropologist Daniel Nettle is a fascinating account of the intertwining relationship between madness (mental illness), creativity, and human nature all linked together through the notion of "strong imagination". As the author points out, "strong imagination" was recognized by William Shakespeare who noted three things about it: that it is an inherent aspect of human nature, that it is highly developed in madness and creativity, and that it may be associated with love or sexual attraction. The author also states later in the book that what he means by madness is really "psychosis", "the state where the sufferer passes beyond the bounds of reality, intelligibility, and rationality as defined by the bulk of society". Psychosis is mostly seen in the more extreme forms of depression, manic depression, and schizophrenia (formerly known as "dementia praecox"). The author also brings up a fourth category: the "schizoaffective" (shading between depression and/or mania and schizophrenia), although the usefulness of these categories remains a matter of some debate. Of course the very notion of mental illness and psychosis remains extremely controversial, and the author must spend a great deal of the earlier parts of this book defining exactly what he means, answering possible objections, and ultimately defending his viewpoint that mental illness is a brain disorder and results from either a chemical imbalance in the brain, an "organic" disturbance, or an atrophy in certain parts of the brain.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Kathlene Kelly on February 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Nettle's book is not for the feint of heart or the reference-challenged. It is huge, tough chunks of academia interspersed with some darned interesting stuff.

Primary in the first half of Nettle's message are his "four propositions" that:
*Psychosis is so common as to be found in approximately 1 in 30 people,
*The most common types of psychosis have a basis in the brain,
*The consequences of psychosis are of a disastrous nature and
*The propensity for psychosis is dependant on personality and just like other facets of human personality are considered, to a large extent, something that is inherited.

With these suppositions in place as a foundation, Daniel Nettle aptly highlights two significant messages regarding creativity and mental illness.

First Nettle goes out of his way to invalidate the practice of glorifying psychological illness as it occurs in artists. It is all too common amongst a variety of persons to indulge the belief that authentic creative geniuses are a by nature a psychically tortured and grief-stricken crowd from the moment of conception and thus one can't swing a cat without hitting one in the various stages of melodramatic deterioration: cutting off ears, filling pockets with rocks and walking into the Thames or painting grotesquely melting clocks and calling it cool. This is an essentially nihilistic and unsafe viewpoint for those who don't face potentially debilitating psychological challenge. It is far too disturbing a charade to encourage when someone's well-being hangs in the balance.
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