Jamison, Kay Redfield
JAMISON, Kay Redfield
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Alfred A. Knopf, 299 Park Ave., New York, NY 10171.
CAREER: University of California—Los Angeles, Los Angeles, worked as associate professor of psychiatry; Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, began as associate professor, became professor of psychiatry.
(With Bruce L. Baker and Michael J. Goldstein) Abnormal Psychology: Experiences, Origins, and Interventions, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1980, 2nd edition, 1986.
Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and theCreative Temperament, Free Press (New York, NY), 1993.
An Unquiet Mind (memoir), Knopf (New York, NY), 1995.
Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide, Knopf (New York, NY), 1999.
Exuberance: The Passion for Life, Knopf (New York, NY), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Kay Redfield Jamison is a psychologist and educator who is considered an authority on manic-depressive illness. Her volume Manic-Depressive Illness, compiled with Frederick K. Goodwin, is regarded as a key contribution to the study of manic-depressive illness, a biochemical disorder which results in periods of mania alternating with bouts of depression. The book encompasses a range of issues and subjects, including diagnosis, clinical studies, psychological ramifications, and patho-physiological elements. Larry S. Goldman, reviewing the work in the New England Journal of Medicine, acknowledged Jamison and Goodwin as "two highly regarded senior clinicians and researchers" and proclaimed their book "thorough and most readable." Goldman concluded, "It is hard to imagine a clinician working with patients with the illness . . . or a researcher in any part of the field of mood disorders who should not have this tour de force available."
Jamison followed Manic-Depressive Illness with Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Creative Temperament, a detailed account of the ties between artistic sensibilities and manic-depressive illness. While conceding that not all artists are manic-depressive, Jamison argues that a significant association exists between the artistic and manic-depressive temperaments. There is, for example, a high rate of suicide among both types. In her analysis, Jamison incorporates scientific and medical data, including diagnostic methods and genetic information, and she applies this data to a host of creative individuals, including the composer Robert Schumann, the painter Vincent Van Gogh, and such American writers as Ernest Hemingway, John Berryman, and Hart Crane. Jamison notes that many of the creative individuals considered in Touched with Fire had little recourse to any suitable psycho-medical care.
Since its appearance in 1993, Touched with Fire has been praised as a detailed and compelling study. "This book," reported Myrna M. Weissman in Contemporary Psychology, "provides information about the experience of manic depressive illness from unique and creative individuals, factual information about our current scientific understanding, and a forum for some 'very careful thought.'" She called Jamison "a scientifically knowledgeable and remarkable author." Another reviewer, Hugh Freeman, wrote in Nature that Touched with Fire constitutes "an important work that should provoke some serious rethinking in several corners of academe," while Larry S. Goldman, in his New England Journal of Medicine appraisal, deemed Jamison's book "clear and enjoyable."
In 1995 Jamison published An Unquiet Mind, a memoir of her own experiences with manic depression. In this volume Jamison recounts her extreme moodiness as a child and relates her first, exhilarating experience of mania when she was in her mid-teens. She notes that mania and depression sometimes exist simultaneously. It is during these periods, when the depths of despair are coupled with the impulsiveness characteristic of mania, that sufferers, according to Jamison, are more likely to consider suicide. Jamison discloses in An Unquiet Mind that she attempted to take her own life, and she credits psychotherapy with helping her realize greater acceptance and stability. Time reviewer Anastasia Toufexis hailed The Unquiet Mind as "a rare and insightful view of mental illness from inside the mind of a trained specialist." Sharon O'Brien, writing in the New York Times Book Review, also responded favorably, lauding Jamison's book as "an invaluable memoir of manic depression, at once medically knowledgeable, deeply human and beautifully written."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Atlantic Monthly, April, 1993, p. 133.
Contemporary Psychology, May, 1994, Myrna M. Weissman, review of Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Creative Temperament, pp. 469-470.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, August 1, 1993, p. 6.
Nature, April 15, 1993, Hugh Freeman, review of Touched with Fire, pp. 666-667.
New England Journal of Medicine, March 14, 1991, Larry S. Goldman, review of Manic-Depressive Illness, pp. 778-779; October 7, 1993, Larry S. Goldman, review of Touched with Fire, pp. 1133-1134.
New York Times Book Review, October 1, 1995, Sharon O'Brien, review of An Unquiet Mind, pp. 16-18.
Time, September 11, 1995, Anastasia Toufexis, review of An Unquiet Mind, p. 83.
Washington Post, May 6, 1993, p. D2.