Grimly Reaping: Melancholy and the Creative Harvest
This paper establishes the theme of the harvest in classical myth as the crucial link between creativity and melancholia, which has been noted and examined since Aristotle. The ‘saturnine’ melancholic humour and its creative potency is intricately tied to Saturn, the god of both melancholy and the harvest. While scholars such as Feld and Jackson have explored the relationships between melancholy and creativity, Saturn’s role in such creativity has largely been passed over, and even Klibansky, Panofsky, and Saxl’s Saturn und Melancholie associates creativity with “Dame Mérencolye” rather than Saturn. The following analysis is based on a broad interpretation of ‘the harvest,’ encompassing agriculture, fertility, and creation. Stemming from Feld’s cursory allusion to a connection between Saturn and Dionysus, the relation of the Dionysian myth to melancholy is analysed alongside the myth of Saturn. Another link to the gods of the ancient world is provided through Jackson’s discussion of the medieval understanding of enthusiasm as divine/demonic possession brought about by melancholy. The arguments herein provide an alternative answer to Aristotle’s relation between melancholy and creativity by demonstrating the extent to which classical mythical figures in the creative harvests are attributed to the melancholic humour.
In Book XXX of Problemata, attributed to Aristotle, the question arises: ‘Why is it that all those who have become eminent in philosophy or politics or poetry or the arts are clearly of an atrabilious temperament, and some of them to such an extent as to be affected by diseases...
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.
Do you have any questions? Contact us.Or login to access all content.