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UBC Theses and Dissertations

‘The warfare of our higher and our lower selves’ : an analysis of the relationship between mental illness and artistic creativity through a case study of Thomas Hardy’s cyclothymic tendencies O'Connor, Kate Suzanne


In July of 2008, scholar Tony Fincham offered a retrospective diagnosis of cyclothymia, a milder variant of manic-depression, in explanation of Thomas Hardy’s seemingly cyclical bouts of depression and mania. In preparation of the depressive component of this diagnosis, Fincham consulted four sources - one that fully documents letters written by Thomas Hardy, two that partially document Hardy’s notebook entries, and one that publishes scholarly essays on the author and his works. Fincham located a total of forty incidents within these four sources that describe Hardy as suffering from episodes of depression. Conversely, in an effort to locate instances of mania, Fincham collected only three examples from two different sources, one in a letter written by Florence Hardy and two in Michael Millgate’s 1982 Thomas Hardy: A Biography. This study is useful as it provides an introductory explanation for the mood swings so prevalent in letters and accounts of Hardy’s life, however, having only consulted five sources, it is most definitely not a thorough analysis of the extent to which Hardy may have been suffering from cyclothymia. This thesis hopes to provide both a reliable and exhaustive database of Hardy’s cyclothymic tendencies while also exploring the hypothetical links between mental illness and artistic creativity through a case study of Thomas Hardy. I have located every piece of writing available to me that relates to Thomas Hardy, written either to, from, about, or by Hardy himself, and have analysed these entries through the lens of Kay Redfield Jamison’s research on manic-depression. Because retrospective diagnosis is hypothetical in nature, the examples I provide in my ‘Bibliographic Survey,’ the title for my database, are inherently hypothetical as well. Nonetheless, valuable research can be conducted in the field of biography studies, and it is my hope that this database will foster such kinds of further research on Thomas Hardy. The database I have created may allow for the future study of the ways in which a particular determining factor, cyclothymia in this instance, can be said to contribute to our understanding of what Thomas Hardy’s works mean.

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