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The Flight of the Mind

Virginia Woolf's Art and Manic-Depressive Illness

Thomas C. Caramagno (Author), Kay Redfield Jamison (Afterword by)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 362 pages
ISBN: 9780520205048
February 1996
$39.95, £29.95
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In this major new book on Virginia Woolf, Caramagno contends psychobiography has much to gain from a closer engagement with science. Literary studies of Woolf's life have been written almost exclusively from a psychoanalytic perspective. They portray Woolf as a victim of the Freudian "family romance," reducing her art to a neurotic evasion of a traumatic childhood.

But current knowledge about manic-depressive illness—its genetic transmission, its biochemistry, and its effect on brain function—reveals a new relationship between Woolf's art and her illness. Caramagno demonstrates how Woolf used her illness intelligently and creatively in her theories of fiction, of mental functioning, and of self structure. Her novels dramatize her struggle to imagine and master psychic fragmentation. They helped her restore form and value to her own sense of self and lead her readers to an enriched appreciation of the complexity of human consciousness.
Thomas C. Caramagno teaches in the Department of English at the University of Nebraska. Kay Redfield Jamison is Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
"Most valuable, to my thinking, is Caramagno's demonstration of the interrelationship between Woolf's literary brilliance and her devastating depressions and creative highs, and his insights into the creative process itself."—Ronald R. Fieve, M.D., author of Moodswing

"This book is a knockout. After reading it, Woolf scholars (like me), and everyone else, are going to have to rethink everything we think we know about Virginia Woolf. I expected yet another predictable book on Woolf's madness . . . and instead came away thoroughly impressed."—Jane C. Marcus, Distinguished Professor of English at The City College of New York and Coordinator of Women's Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center

"Caramagno's powerfully revisionist account of Woolf's life and work traces her courageous attempt to record and understand her own mental illness. His book throws a flood of light on the relentlessly honest self-scrutiny of her autobiographical writing as well as on the deliberate discontinuities of her fiction."—Alex Zwerdling, author of Virginia Woolf and the Real World

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