Category Archives: Mental Health

The Tortured Life of Virginia Woolf, 75 Years After Her Death

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Is there a link between creativity and mental illness? My grandmother has always told me that there is a fine line between genius and madness, and even the Stanford Journal of Neuroscience [PDF] has delved into the prevalence of manic depressive disorder (or bipolar disorder) and schizophrenia among artists, noting a link between these altered mental states, creative thinking, and artistic production. For lived experiences, simply look to some of the most influential artists throughout history, many of whom based much of their work on the inner conflict brought on by mental illness, and some who eventually succumbed to those illnesses and took their own lives — Vincent Van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, and Anne Sexton, just to name a few. One of those creative geniuses was Virginia Woolf, who committed suicide 75 years ago this month at the age of 59.

Virginia Woolf touched on the subject of mental illness in many of her books, we can assume by pulling from her own experiences with bipolar disorder that stemmed at least three mental breakdowns and numerous suicide attempts throughout her life. Her last attempt proved successful when on March 28, 1941, she filled the pockets of her overcoat with stones and walked into the River Ouse, drowning herself. Her last manuscript, Between the Acts, was finished just two weeks before her suicide and was published posthumously by the efforts of her surviving husband.

But there is so much more to Virginia Woolf than her suffering, and it can be debated for as long as there is psychology whether her mental illness was what informed her creativity and artistic production. One of the modernists of the Twentieth century, Woolf was a literary pioneer who earned accolades for her nonlinear, free prose style. The English writer and author of Mrs. Dalloway and A Room of One’s Own was also a pacifist and second-wave feminist.

Check out the story slideshow below for even more insight and intrigue about the life and works of the great Virginia Woolf, 75 years after her death.

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Check out The Tortured Life of Virginia Woolf

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