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The World Around Us Shapes the Delusions Inside Us

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Wallace Shawn as Halvard Solness in 'A Master Builder,' directed by Jonathan Demme, created for the stage by André Gregory. Wallace Shawn as Halvard Solness in "A Master Builder," directed by Jonathan Demme, created for the stage by André Gregory. (Photo by Declan Quinn/Courtesy of Abramorama)

On today’s show: Zelda la Grange grew up supporting the rules of apartheid in South Africa, but she later became one of Nelson Mandela’s most loyal and devoted aides. She tells us about working and traveling by Mandela’s side for almost two decades. Jonathan Demme, André Gregory, and Wallace Shawn discuss bringing their interpretation of Henrik Ibsen’s “A Master Builder” to the screen. We’ll investigate how interactions between the brain and the world around us can give rise to delusional thinking. Neuroscientist Nancy C. Andreasen looks into where creative genius comes from and why it’s so often accompanied by mental illness.

From Mandela’s Enemy to His Right Hand

Zelda la Grange's beliefs, prejudices — everything she once believed — were completely transformed by the man she had been taught to fear.

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Jonathan Demme, André Gregory, and Wallace Shawn on Making 'A Master Builder'

The stage and screen veterans turned Ibsen's play, about an egomaniacal architect looking to make amends, into a movie.

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Our Delusional Brains

Are delusions just the symptom of a crossed wire in our brains, or could the world around us be contributing? In an age of constant surveillance and online sharing, perhaps it's not crazy to feel like you're in "The Truman Show."

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Do You Have to Be Crazy to Be a Genius?

Neuroscientist and literary scholar Nancy C. Andreasen tries to answer the question: If high IQ does not indicate creative genius, then where does the trait come from, and why is it so often accompanied by mental illness? Andreasen has studied the neuroscience of mental illness and has worked with many gifted subjects, including Kurt Vonnegut, John Irving, and John Cheever, from the Iowa Writers' Workshop to investigate the science of genius. She’s currently working with artists and scientists including George Lucas, the mathematician William Thurston, the novelist Jane Smiley, and six Nobel laureates. Her article “Secrets of the Creative Brain” is the cover story of the July/August issue of The Atlantic

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