What is creativity? Is there a relationship between states of mind and a fertile imagination? What are the psychological mechanisms involved in the larger action of the human imagination, urging us to explore new avenues, to see what others have not seen, to create what no one has yet created? Many of the world's greatest writers, artists and thinkers have been known to struggle with conditions classified as abnormal by psychologists. We will explore these conditions and their impact on creativity, searching further for any special links between certain kinds of abnormal psychological conditions and the drive to create.
Our interdisciplinary program is not intended to serve as therapy, but rather is a serious study of psychology, literature, the arts, imagination and the creative impulse. We will approach our questions through various modes of inquiry. Through an in-depth study of abnormal psychology, we will learn to identify and understand a number of conditions. We will investigate modern art history and its fascination with the art produced by individuals reputed to be cultural "outsiders," such as folk art, art of the insane, art brut and self-taught artists. Through this study we will explore how societies form a group identity which is established in relation to some designated "other." Our readings combine art theory with psychological case studies by writers such as Sacks and Ramachandran and with imaginative literature by Gogol, Dostoevsky, Poe, Kafka, Plath, Gilman and many others that all describe abnormal psychological conditions. We will respond to our readings by channeling the imagination with a variety of creative projects. Finally, we will also study the normal mind and how it functions in both mundane and creative ways.
In both quarters of our program students will discuss assigned readings in seminars, will engage in active writing exercises and in rigorous two-dimensional and thre-dimensional visual art work in ceramics, mixed-media sculpture, collage, and drawing. Assignments may include research papers, poster projects, creative writing, performances and visual arts projects. Weekly films and discussions of these films will enhance our examination of the uses or influence of psychological conditions in the creation of literature, art and music. Guest speakers will provide additional workshops and lectures in various artistic modalities. In fall term we will take field trips to the Tacoma Art Museum and the Museum of Glass, and our work that term will prepare students to undertake a culminating project in winter term. In all our activities, students will have ample opportunities to explore their own creativity and imagination.