By Darrin M. McMahon
Genius. The notice connotes a nearly unworldly energy: the facility to create, to know common secrets and techniques, even to break. As popular highbrow historian Darrin McMahon explains in Divine Fury, the idea that of genius should be traced again to antiquity, whilst males of significant perception have been considered urged via demons. the fashionable proposal of genius emerged in pressure with a becoming trust in human equality; contesting the suggestion that every one are created equivalent, geniuses served to dramatize the exception of impressive members no longer ruled via traditional legislation. this present day, the belief of genius has develop into cheapened—rock stars and soccer coaches earn the time period with possible a similar ease as astrophysicists and philosophers—yet our enduring fascination with it displays the wishes, wishes, and fears of standard humans.
The first entire heritage of this mysterious but foundational idea, Divine Fury follows the fortunes of genius from Socrates to Napoleon to Einstein and past, studying its democratization, disappearance, and capability rebirth.
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Extra resources for Divine Fury: A History of Genius
Which only begged the question of why the Muse should choose to settle here and not there. Were the greatest poets like lightning rods, drawing energy from the sky? Perhaps there was special metal in their souls, a “conducting” agent that summoned this power? Or were they merely empty vessels, filled from on high? The earliest Greeks seem to have had no notion of innate poetic ability, a perspective that would have harmonized well with the common observation, by no means confined to Greece, that the gods—or God—worked in mysterious ways, frequently conferring power on the unsuspecting.
Indd 22 8/13/13 1:35 PM The Genius of the Ancients 23 astrological inflection. The connection is understandable: a genius was the god of our conception, honored on our birthday, the day on which the stars aligned in such a way as to assign our fate and form our character, giving us a “personality” and particular traits. 38 It was also natural to conclude that this god—who might soar through the heavens to intercede with the divine forces of the universe— was also resident within us. Roman commentators disagreed about the precise dwelling place of the genius—whether it hovered continually about us, or was resident within, whether it took its seat in the head, or the knees (genua), or suffused the entire body like a breath or soul.
Or worse, was he committing the very same crime that the rulers of Athens had committed against his beloved teacher, condemning the appeal to a god he could not control? The distinction between the two cases becomes clearer when the divine madness of poetry, prophecy, and religious ecstasy are contrasted with what Plato describes in the Phaedrus as a fourth type of mania, the divine madness of love, which offers a glimpse of yet another way of conceiving that special something said to distinguish the most exalted human beings.
Divine Fury: A History of Genius by Darrin M. McMahon