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Eric G. Wilson

Thomas H. Pritchard Professor of English

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Expertise
  • American Culture and Mental Health
  • Literature and Psychology
  • Film and Religion
  • Western Esoteric Traditions
  • Humanism and Technology
  • Transatlantic Romanticism
  • The Gothic
Teaching
  • Creative Nonfiction
  • Literature and Film
  • The Gothic
  • British Romantic Poets
  • American Romanticism
  • Studies in American Romanticism
Selected Publications
  • Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck (New York: Sarah Crichton/ Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2012).
  • My Business Is To Create: Blake’s Infinite Writing (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2011).
  • The Mercy of Eternity: A Memoir of Depression and Grace (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2010).
  • Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy (New York: Sarah Crichton/ Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2008).
Education
  • BA, Appalachian State University
  • MA, Wake Forest University
  • PhD, Graduate Center, City University of New York
Media

As a leading expert in the relationships between literature and psychology, Eric G. Wilson embraces what many fear: melancholy, mental illness, and controversy. A distinguished Romantic scholar and best-selling author, Wilson chronicles his struggle and ultimate embrace of bipolar disorder in the wake of his daughter’s birth, challenges America’s obsessions with superficial happiness, and explores William Blake’s vision of creativity and the practices it implies.

Well-versed on subjects ranging from film and religion to humanism and technology, Wilson has appeared on NBC’s Today show, NPR and BBC, and his work has been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek and Los Angeles Times. His newest book, Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck – which explores the many forms of morbid curiosity and argues that macabre fascination is essential for a good life — was released in the spring of 2012. He is currently blogging on the topic for Psychology Today.

Eric G. Wilson says:

On happiness …
“I am afraid that our American culture’s overemphasis on happiness at the expense of sadness might be dangerous, a wanton forgetting of an essential part of a full life. To desire happiness only in a world undoubtedly tragic is to become inauthentic.”

On creativity …
“Creating doesn’t make us unhappy; unhappiness makes us creative. To create is to live, and, living, we want only to create more, to set our foundations deeper and reach higher toward the sky. If sadness is what makes us creative, then sadness is nothing else but life.”

On the bright side of battling depression …
“The depression had pointed me toward a richly contemplative life. It had emancipated me from my fixation on pleasing others. It had pushed my mind into strange desolate places in which I gained insights and entertained possibilities that would have eluded me had I remained calmly in the light. It had given me a capacity for frantic labor, no small part of my deeply satisfying writing career. It had revealed to me what I most needed to become a human being: love both fragile and galvanic. And, most important, it had disclosed to me the requirements of fatherhood and the beauties of my daughter.”

On our obsession with morbidity …
“To repress death is to lose the feeling of life. During gloomy pauses, we often discover parts of ourselves we never knew we possessed, talents that, properly activated, enrich our lives.”