Sunday, June 20, 2010

Karl Jaspers

In my PhD I looked at the philosopher and psychiatrist Karl Jaspers. Jaspers was important to my work, as he was medically trained in psychiatry, but held a deep interest in the cross-over between schizophrenia and creativity. His studies into the poet Friederich Holderlin and the playwright August Strindberg have been very important into my own studies into schizophrenia. Holderlin was very concerned with the world of Greek antiquity in his poetry, and through his schizophrenia, he came to believe that this world was a truly existing one. Martin Heidegger famously took an interest in the work of Holderlin, and this interest helped to ground his friendship (to an extent) with Jaspers. Strindberg, who also suffered from a deep schizophrenia, came to prominence through such plays as Miss Julie and The Father. He recorded his schizophrenic thinking in his work Inferno, and the document is important in understanding schizophrenic modes of being. Jaspers was well ahead of his time in examining these two seminal artistic figures. Even to diagnose them both as schizophrenic was ahead of its time - the diagnosis of schizophrenic cases was then, as it is now, a very controversial area of inquiry.

Jaspers gives a solid medical grounding to his work, and this gives his corpus a clarity which is invaluable into understanding creative manifestations of schizophrenia. Jaspers should be a first point of reference to anyone interested in how cultural production can be underpinned by schizophrenic processes.

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