A new scholarly anthology by list members–The Affective Disorder and the Writing Life The Melancholic Muse

The Affective Disorder and the Writing Life

The Melancholic Muse




How does affective madness influence the social understanding of writers and other artists, or shape the creative act itself? In a 15-year longitudinal study at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a study little known outside of psychiatry, 80 per cent of the writers reported either living with, or having had a lifetime incidence of, an affective disorder (depression or manic depression), as opposed to only 30 per cent of non-writer controls. Affective Disorder and the Writing Life interrogates the age-old mythos of the ‘mad writer’ through lived experience, literary analysis, writerly reflection, and contemporary neuroscience. These essays explore how affective disorders colour, drive and sometimes silence the writing mind – and how affective difference has always informed the literary imagination.

Stephanie Stone Horton, editor.Stephanie Stone Horton is a PhD student in Rhetoric and Composition at Georgia State University, USA. She is a Phi Beta Kappa journalism graduate of the University of Oklahoma, with an M.A. in English from the University of North Texas. She lives and writes with bipolar disorder.

Affective (Dis)order and the Writing Life: The Melancholic Muse

Table of Contents

Part I: “Could it be madness, this?” Affective Difference and the Work of Composition

Chapter 1: “What Ceremony of Words Can Patch the Havoc?”: Writing, Madness,  and Neurodiversity  –  Stephanie Stone Horton

Chapter 2: Muse Afire: Negotiating the Line Between Creative Pursuit and

Mental Illness – Nancer Ballard

Chapter 3: After the Fire Goes Out: Writing Before and After Treatment for 

        Affective Disorder  –  Lise Bagoley

Chapter 4: Gaps on the Vita  –  Sharon O’Brien

Chapter 5: Lunatic  –  Jeannie Parker Beard

Part II: “Their Lives a Storm Whereon They Ride”: Affective (Dis)order and

the Literary Imagination

Chapter 6: Axing the Frozen Sea: Female Inscriptions of Madness  – Joann


Chapter 7: The Things We Carry: Embodied Truth and Tim O’ Brien’s Poetics

of Despair – David Bahr

Chapter 8: “The Incessant Rise and Fall and Fall and Rise”: Virginia Woolf’s

Treading the Waves  –  Jessica De Santa

Chapter 9: The Fire, The Dark, and the Beautiful Distance  – Stephen Newton