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Picture of Insanity and Genius

Insanity and Genius

Masks of Madness and the Mapping of Meaning and Value

Author(s): Harry Eiss

Book Description

Pablo Picasso said “We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand.” John Keats expressed the same in the climactic couplet of his poem, Ode on a Grecian Urn, when he wrote, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,--that is all / Ye know on earth and all ye need to know.” On September 8, 1888, Vincent Van Gogh, referring to his painting The Night Cafe, wrote in a letter to his brother Theo: “I have tried to express the terrible passions of humanity by means of red and green.”

This is what I have struggled with, this higher truth, and its messengers: drama, dance, sculpture, painting--all of the arts, and such other disciplines as philosophy, theology, psychology and neurology. It is what led me, innocent of all the implications and reasons for it, to first submerse myself in literature, music and drawing in my desperate search for meaning as a child following my father’s death.

In his book about the discovery of the structure of DNA, James Watson wrote, “So we had lunch, telling ourselves that a structure this beautiful just had to exist.” Indeed, the question most often asked by scientists about a scientific theory is “Is it beautiful?” Yes, truth equals beauty. Scientists know, mathematicians know.

But the beauties, the truths of math and science were not the truths I needed as a child, and I intuitively knew it, intuitively knew that the truths I needed come from a different way of knowing, a way of knowing not of the world of logic and reason and explanation (though they help lead us to it), but rather a way of knowing that is of the world of expression, a world that takes us to what is just beyond the grasp of logic.

That is what this book is all about. It is an exploration of the greatest minds of especially the past two centuries and how they have struggled to find the deepest truths about the human condition.


ISBN-13: 978-1-8471-8611-9
ISBN-10: 1-84718-611-4
Date of Publication: 01/07/2008
Pages / Size: 625 / A5
Price: £44.99


Harry Edwin Eiss is a full professor at Eastern Michigan University, where he teaches world mythology and literature. His publications include Children’s Literature and Culture, Cambridge Scholars Press, Metaesthetics, Pearson Press, Images of the Child, Bowling Green University Press, Literature for Youth on War and Peace, Greenwood Press, Dictionary of Mathematical Games, Puzzles, and Amusements, Greenwood Press, and Dictionary of Language Games, Puzzles, and Amusements, Greenwood Press. He has taught at several other colleges and universities, including The University of North Dakota, Northern Montana College, Minnesota State University, and Pacifica, and received national recognition for his pedagogy.