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The Liminality of Creative illness

1 Department of Leadership and American Studies, Christopher Newport University, Newport News, Virginia, USA

International Journal of Innovation Science

ISSN: 1757-2223

Article publication date: 18 March 2014



Henri Ellenberger argued that in many instances, illness serves as an integral stage in the creative process. This paper begins by contrasting the simplistic image of cause-and-effect with Ellenberger's three-part model, with illness in the middle. Then, it sets forth five different ways to construe the period of illness as a contribution to a creative process that will have begun before the illness. It concludes by introducing a familiar example from Western history of a leader whose contributions might have built upon years of exemplary preparation, but actually began in earnest only after a defining period of sudden illness.

Henri Ellenberger [1] wrote an influential essay in the 1960s titled "The Concept of Creative Illness." Part of its brilliance is due to the fact that it took a relatively common model of cause-and-effect and added something to it, presenting a slightly more sophisticated model that raised interesting new questions about the relationship between illness and creativity. This paper considers the importance of studying the creative process through the lens of illness as liminality.


Harter, N. (2014), "The Liminality of Creative illness", International Journal of Innovation Science, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 55-62.



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