Art, Crime, and Madness: Gesualdo, Caravaggio, Genet, Van Gogh, Artaud

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Sussex Academic Press, 2002 - Art - 209 pages
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ART, CRIME, AND MADNESS explores the relationship between creative innovation, deviance and morbidity. To innovate, one has to be able to view the medium and the object of creativity in a different, hitherto unexplored manner. The essence of art is creative innovation, coupled with an ability, in varying degrees, to transcend the boundaries of consciousness. But this "ability" is also the prerogative of the mentally deranged. Likewise, the criminal and the deviant are more likely to transcend normative barriers while creating, hence the wide range of criminal and deviant behavior in society. Although the inverse hypothesis does not hold - the mere existence of deviance or morbidity does not predispose the individual to creativity - nevertheless criminal and mad behavior are often very innovative. This thesis is illustrated by historical case histories of creative deviance and genius madness, and contemporary observations. Don Carlo Gesualdo, prince of Venosa, was a sadomasochist who insisted on being flogged. He killed his beautiful wife and her lover in a fit of rage, yet was one of the greatest innovators in the art of the Madrigali. The painter Michelangelo Merisi Caravaggio killed a man while still a teenager, and a second victim during a ball game. In his lifetime he was considered degenerate, but today he is considered the greatest painter of the Italian Settecento, and his portrait adorned the Hundred-Thousand Lira note. Jean Genet the homosexual thief was born out of wedlock and as a teenager he transgressed almost all the paragraphs of the French criminal code. But he became a famous French playwright, the mouthpiece for criminals and deviants. His plays built up a philosophical apology for the raison d'tre of the criminal group. Vincent Van Gogh was mad, but in his lucid years he revolutionized painting by his innovative use of wide brush strokes and "rainbows" of colors. Antonin Artaud was also hospitalized, and like Van Gogh he committed suicide. But he revolutionized the cinema theatre and the visual arts.

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About the author (2002)

Shlomo Giora Shoham is a widely published author on crime, deviance, philosophy, religion, psychology, and the human personality. He lectures worldwide, and has recently been resident at the universities of Oxford and Harvard, and at the Sorbonne. He was awarded the Israel Prize for 2003 for his contribution to the study of criminology.

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