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Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament Paperback – October 18, 1996

4.1 out of 5 stars 153 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The march of science in explaining human nature continues. In Touched With Fire, Jamison marshals a tremendous amount of evidence for the proposition that most artistic geniuses were (and are) manic depressives. This is a book of interest to scientists, psychologists, and artists struggling with the age-old question of whether psychological suffering is an essential component of artistic creativity. Anyone reading this book closely will be forced to conclude that it is. Very Highly Recommended. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Drawing from the lives of artists such as Van Gogh, Byron and Virginia Woolf, Jamison examines the links between manic-depression and creativity.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Reissue edition (October 18, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 068483183X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684831831
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (153 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,407 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Touched With Fire is by far the most life changing book I have ever read. Having suffered with Cyclothymia as long as I can remember, and also being an extremely creative person, I thought I was losing my mind...then I read this book. Kay Jamison explores the relationship between creativity and manic depressive illness in an amazing way. The excerpts of letters, etc., of great artists, writers and composers of the past are enlightening, inspiring, and devastating to read. They open up a new understanding of these individuals and what they lived with. This is a must read not only for those suffering from forms of manic depressive illness, but also those who are associated with them. Wonderful reading. INFORMATIVE, ENLIGHTENING, AND AMAZING.
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Format: Paperback
Ok...let's get some things straight right off the bat. This book by Jamison is NOT a book meant for the easy reading of those who are trying to find out more about bipolar disease (whether or not they are merely curious or actually have been diagnosed with it themselves!). This book is an excellent qualitative case studies argument for professionals and peers (in education, in psychology, in neuroscience, in the art world, etc.) who would like to further delve into the long-circulated theory that those blessed with creative abilities are often cursed with manic-depressive (bipolar disorder). Those lay people who merely want confirmation of their illness (or that of a family member) are going to be in for an incredible disappointment if they 'get' this book. It was never intended to be a self-help diary, no matter what Jamison's previous books on bipolar have been like.
Next...Jamison makes an excellent case for the link between bipolar disorder and creativity. The methodology she uses tends to be dependent upon case studies of particular artists and the information available from their own writings as well as their family backgrounds and family lineage. It is a well-known fact that many of the psychiatric disorders have both a genetic and an environmental component. Jamison obviously is learned enough and has enough background in neuroscience and psychiatry, to be able to tie the information often gleaned separately in these fields, together in a more comprehensive whole. No, Jamison does not prove beyond a shadow of a doubt the concept that many writers/artists are plagued by bipolararity...but she sure makes a heck of a case for the previously surmised existence of a link!
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Format: Paperback
Kay Redfield Jamison writes with a strong knowledge of the subject. In this book, she researches the question of artistic talent, creativity, and it's relationship to manic depressive illness. The facts are stunning. I was unaware that such a strong link existed, but it does make sense. Famous authors, poets, and painters are explored, and their struggle with this very debilitating disease is illuminated in these pages. Manic depressive illness is portrayed as a double edged sword, one that destroys even as it creates. Ms. Jamison researches the question of treatment, and whether or not treating/eradicating manic depressive illness does not also involve the stifling of creativity. Some famous authors are even known to have said that their suffering is a part of who they are, and without it, they could not create. The forms of treatment are also explored, and the pros and cons of Lithium and other medication discussed. This author has done her homework, and this book will inform and delight anyone interested in this subject. The only reason I gave it four stars instead of five is because the statistics (though necessary) get boring.
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Format: Paperback
It's long been considered a fact of life that seems to go with the territory that creative people are not only "abnormal" or "outside the mainstream"--but that many of them are just plain loopy. Doubtless, some of that kind of thinking owes a big debt to the narrowing--and often stereotypical--definitions of "normal" in American society. However, the gradual merging of biology and psychology over the last two decades shows a scientifically verifiable correlation between the "artistic temperament" and "manic-depressive illness."
Want to know more about what psychological researchers have been discovering about this long-acknowledged link since the Prozac Revolution? Kay Redfield Jamison, a psychologist at Johns Hopkins, presents as "evidence" a series of recent statistical studies of creative men and women that reveal a definite relationship between the long-ellusive and hard-to-diagnose illness and the personality traits researchers suspect are inherent in successful creative activity. While that's not anything particularly new or groundbreaking--the dry opening chapters are perhaps a little too technical for the information Jamison seeks to convey to a general audience--"Touched With Fire" may help to dispel some of the confusion among "normal" family members and friends who are often too quick to label the artists and writers among them as "messed up" or "weird" or "skitzy.
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