The Midnight Disease

The French newspaper Le Monde‘s literary house-blogger, Pierre Assouline, in his latest post translates and queries a definition of Hypergraphia as given by Webster’s New World Medical Dictionary.

Definition of Hypergraphia

Hypergraphia: The driving compulsion to write; the overwhelming urge to write. Hypergraphia may compel someone to keep a voluminous journal, to jot off frequent letters to the editor, to write on toilet paper if nothing else is available, and perhaps even to compile a dictionary. Hypergraphia is the opposite of writer’s block.

Temporal lobe epilepsy is associated with hypergraphia. This association has been known at least as early as 1974 (Waxman SG, Geschwind N. Hypergraphia in temporal lobe epilepsy. Neurology. 1974;24:629-36). A number of prolific writer may have had temporal lobe epilepsy, including Byron, Dante, Dostoevsky, Molière, Petrarch, Poe, and Tennyson.

Hypergraphia has also been called the midnight disease.

Why midnight? asks Assouline, before noting that French dictionaries do not mention hypergraphia, though there is a three words definition proposed for the term “graphomanie:” “besoin pathologique d’écrire” (“the pathological need to write” — which takes 5 words in English) before referring the reader back to “graphorrée” (graphorrhea — the English definition of which is given as ” The writing of long lists of meaningless words, as occurs in some manic disorders” by The American Heritage® Medical Dictionary) and “graphomanie” (graphomania).

Indeed, why the midnight disease? That time-slot seems pretty normal for normal writing to most. Right now, given my US-Europe jet-lag (that West-East displacement is the one I feel most) it is 4 a.m. that feels the likely moment when writing turns into mania. So I’ll stop here & try to get some shuteye.

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