From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Related e



In psychiatry, monomania (from Greek monos, one, and mania, mania) is a condition in which the patient has only one idea or type of ideas. Emotional monomania is that in which the patient is obsessed with only one emotion or several related to it; intellectual monomania is that which is related to only one kind of delirious idea or ideas. The originally French term was prominent in the 19th century and has since fallen into disuse.

In colloquial terms, the term monomania is often attached to subcultures that to the general public appear esoteric. However, the differences between monomania and passion can be very subtle and difficult to recognize.

The term was first attested in the English language in 1823, probably on model of earlier French monomanie [1] most notably in a series of paintings by Géricault.


Monomania in painting


Monomania in literature


The 19th century writer Edgar Allan Poe would often write tales in which the narrator and protagonist would suffer some form of monomania, becoming excessively fixated on an idea, an urge, an object, or a person, often to the point of mental and/or physical destruction.

An important book about monomania is Edgar Allan Poe's "The Black Cat and other stories" which includes:

  1. The Black Cat (a man fears his cat and kills it, adopts another cat, kills his wife, and is then punished by the cat)
  2. The Oval Portrait (about a painter who is obsessed with painting his wife)
  3. Berenice (about a madman who wants to marry his sick cousin only for her beautiful teeth)
  4. The Masque of the Red Death (a prince fears a terrible disease but finally gets ill from the red death and dies)
  5. The Tell-Tale Heart (a madman is obsessed with an elderly man's eye)

H. P. Lovecraft remarked on Poe's fiction in Supernatural Horror in Literature

"Poe’s tales, of course, fall into several classes; [the] third group deal with abnormal psychology and monomania in such a way as to express terror but not weirdness. "


It is said that Flaubert's hatred of the bourgeois and their bêtise (willful idiocy), that began in his childhood, developed into a kind of monomania. It is monomania from which Flaubert's tragic heroine, Madame Bovary suffers; in her case it takes the form of an incessant guilt and fear of discovery.

Mary Elizabeth Braddon

The same monomanic fear is explored in great depth in Mary Elizabeth Braddon's novel, Lady Audley's Secret, through the protagonist Robert Audley, whom the guilty woman accuses of monomania in his relentless attempt to prove her guilt. She describes monomania thus:

"What is one of the strangest diagnostics of madness--what is the first appalling sign of mental aberration? The mind becomes stationary; the brain stagnates; the even current of reflection is interrupted; the thinking power of the brain resolves itself into a monotone. As the waters of a tideless pool putrefy by reason of their stagnation, the mind becomes turbid and corrupt through lack of action; and the perpetual reflection upon one subject resolves itself into monomania."

Fyodor Dostoevsky

In Crime and Punishment, the magnum opus of renowned 19th-century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, the main character, Raskolnikov, is said to be a monomaniac on numerous occasions.

Herman Melville

In Moby Dick by Herman Melville (1851), Captain Ahab is a monomaniac, as shown by his quest to kill Moby Dick. One particular situation where he is shown as a monomaniac is in the crew's first encounter with the whale, stating "in his narrow-flowing monomania, not one jot of Ahab's broad madness had been left behind; so in that broad madness, not one jot of his great natural intellect had perished.”

Emily Brontë

In Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff is decribed as a monomaniac, obsessing over his reunion with Cathy in the final chapters of the novel.

Marquis de Sade

The Marquis de Sade has been variously described as a monomaniac or a person suffering from graphomania.

Pierre Louÿs

Pierre Louÿs's intense, claustrophobic fiction and monomania is best exemplified by his novel The She-devils, a work of sexual obsession.

External links


  • Monomania: The Flight From Everyday Life In Literature And Art (2005) - Marina Van Zuylen

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Monomania" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools