The Agony of Creativity

Publication Date



Master of Arts (MA)

Committee or Advisor Chair

Paul Corneil, Ph.D.

Committee Members

Walter Tubbs, Ph.D.

Janet Adams, M.A.


creativity, neurosis, transpersonal psychology, schizophrenia, agony, mental health


Mental and Social Health | Mental Disorders | Psychiatric and Mental Health | Psychology | Transpersonal Psychology


This thesis will attempt to show that, although the creative act is by and large a joyous process (Shaprio, 1979), there are numerous instances among famous artists in which their personal lives and creative work has been accompanied by great torment and difficulty. This includes very real psychological abnormality, including a high incidence of neurosis and schizophrenia (Hatterrer, 1965, Pickering, 1974, and Storr, 1972). Other problems have included those unique to artistic endeavors, but not indicative of psychological abnormality, such as persecution through censorship, or the inability to secure commissions. Documentation will include short biographies which summarize noteworthy problems of some of history's famous artists. They have been specifically selected to illustrate how their creativity was able to emerge (or not) in the context of ostensibly destructive psychological, economic, emotional, and lifestyle patterns. These selections were not made as arbitrary examples, but rather to show that there is a whole dimension to the creative process that may be characterized as "agony of creativity." "Agony" comes from Latin and is defined as "mental struggle or anguish." "Agonistic" is used in this thesis as an adjective form to express the qualities of agony as defined above (Oxford English Dictionary).


Department: Humanistic and Transpersonal Psychology

© 1979 David E. Donnelly

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