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Eric G. Wilson

Thomas H. Pritchard Professor of English

Wilson is a leading expert in the relationships between literature and psychology.

Biography

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 Read More »

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. “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. His most recent release, “Keeping it Fake,” Wilson draws on the science, philosophy and social pressures that shape our inauthentic lives arguing that people regularly create less-than-authentic identities, whether it is through Facebook profiles, plastic surgeries, or tuning into a news channel that simply verifies our opinions.

Media Appearances

When death is a fascination

The Atlantic

August 13, 2015

Doctors handle the gore, morticians prettify bodies. Eric Wilson argues that death is not something we regularly encounter anymore, adding an extra layer of mystery and intrigue. In his book, Wilson quotes French historian Philippe Aries: “When death arrives, it is regarded as an accident, a sign of hopelessness and clumsiness that must be put out of mind.” Over the phone, Wilson explains that he was drawn to writing about why it’s so hard for us to look away from gore because he, himself, felt an attraction to it. “I’ve had an abiding interest in the melancholy,” he says. “I wanted to understand the complexity of that.”

Travel disasters bring out the best, the worst ...and the cannibalism

NPR

July 17, 2015

Indeed you could think of Odysseus' long journey home in The Odyssey as just one travel disaster after another, says Eric Wilson, author of Everyone Loves a Train Wreck. Odysseus endures "just one test after another of his mettle," Wilson explains. "Is he wily enough, is he crafty enough, is he strong enough, is he brave enough ... and the answer in all cases is yes!"...

Q&A: Author Eric Wilson on how to create an authentic identity in an increasingly fake world

Deseret News National

July 5, 2015

But how authentic the identities people project are — online or offline — is an increasingly slippery notion, says Wake Forest University English professor Eric G. Wilson. In his new book, “Keep It Fake: Inventing an Authentic Life,” Wilson argues a person’s individual identity is a work in progress, and it’s harder than ever to craft an individual sense of self with the rise of social media and a 24-hour news cycle...

‘Keep It Fake,’ by Eric G. Wilson

The New York Times

June 19, 2015

Toward the end of his terrific new philosophical investigation, “Keep It Fake: Inventing an Authentic Life,” Eric G. Wilson admits that, as with many of us, learning how to be a good dad was something he had a tough time figuring out. On the cusp of fatherhood he was working too much, and drinking too much — sound familiar? — and battling depression. But he had the good sense and good luck to find an excellent psychiatrist...

Imagining an authentic life

The Huffington Post

May 5, 2015

I am the boy whose first word was "ball." I am six and sitting at dinner with my parents and two-year-old brother. We are eating chicken-and-cream-of-mushroom casserole, Del Monte green beans, and Brown' n Serve dinner rolls. On the Zenith in the other room, Cronkite drones "And that's the way it was." The overhead bulbs glare on the pine-green plates and the charred candle-wicks we light only on steak nights...

Articles

The Gift of Financial Insecurity.

In 1864, when Americans were enduring the daily miseries of the Civil War, Emily Dickinson, perhaps with the nationwide crisis in mind, wrote" A nearness to Tremendousness--/An Agony procures." The author suggests that perhaps Dickinson's poetry may be applied to ...

The Dark Art

When I was a young teenager, I longed most to spend my days, especially in summer, lolling about in my dark bedroom. My blinds dimming the morning sun to a gloomy beam, I would lie on my floor and stare for hours at the stains on my ceiling-a handprint that blurred into a ...

Matter and spirit in the age of animal magnetism

During the Romantic period, writers on both sides of the Atlantic explored the sleepwalker as a merger of holiness and horror. Emerging when scientific thinkers for the first time were connecting spirit to electricity and magnetism, the somnambulist became to certain ...

The Melancholy Android

I would most like to thank Pranab Das, who suggested to me the primary distinction of this book: between the android as a realization of spiritual potential and as a violation of natural law. I must again offer my deepest appreciation for the intellectual presence of Phil ...

Moviegoing and Golem-Making: The Case of Blade Runner

To go to a film in a certain mood is to yearn for Eden, the world redeemed beyond decay and the self restored to a grace. Viewed in this light, the exquisite forms on the screen- a grant or joy- prove realizations of the potential for truth and beauty and goodness that most of us possess but fail to actualize...

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More Information

Areas of Expertise

  • American Culture and Mental Health
  • Literature and Psychology
  • Film and Religion
  • Western Esoteric Traditions
  • Humanism and Technology
  • Transatlantic Romanticism
  • The Gothic

Education

City University of New York, Graduate Center: Ph.D., English Literature

Wake Forest University: M.A., English Literature

Appalachian State University: B.A., English Literature

Contact

Television Studio

Wake Forest University’s Office of News and Communications operates a fully equipped, professional television studio to connect faculty members and campus newsmakers with global news media.

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