The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research, now in all-pdf form. Get a subscription now for only $25 a year!
compiled by Tenzing Terwilliger, Improbable Research staff
Poets, since ancient days, have suffered (and in some cases, also celebrated) a reputation for being sufferers. Several researchers have tried to assess how, what and whether poets suffer. These four studies present compelling evidence for or against the prevailing beliefs.
Possible Pathology for Poets
“Poetry or Pathology? Jesuit Hypochondria in Early Modern Naples,” Yasmin Haskell, Early Science and Medicine, vol. 12, no. 2, 2007, pp. 187–213 (http://dx.doi. org/10.1163/157338207X194686). The author, at the University of Western Australia, Crawley, explains:
In their didactic poems on fishing and chocolate, both published in 1689, two Neapolitan Jesuits digressed to record and lament a devastating ‘plague’ of ‘hypochondria’. The poetic plagues of Niccolò Giannettasio and Tommaso Strozzi have literary precedents in Lucretius, Vergil, and Fracastoro, but it will be argued that they also have a real, contemporary significance. Hypochondria was considered to be a serious (and epidemic) illness in the seventeenth century, with symptoms ranging from depression to delusions. Not only did our Jesuit poets claim to have suffered from it, but so did prominent members of the ‘Accademia degl’Investiganti’, a scientific society in Naples that was at odds with both the religious and medical establishments.
Possible Immunity for Poets