A Field Guide to Melancholy by Jacky Bowring

By Jacky Bowring

A depressive disease or a passing feeling? psychological detachment or a precursor to genius? depression is a serious a part of what it really is to be human, but every little thing from Prozac to self-help psychology books turns out cause on removal all indicators of unhappiness from modern life. A box advisor to depression surveys this ambivalent suggestion and takes a trip throughout the articulation of depression in a number of languages, from the Russian toska of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin to kaiho—which is expressed within the dancing of the Finnish tango. depression is located within the historical traditions of death’s presence in paradise, the tears of nature, besides nostalgia, pathos, and melancholy’s presiding god, Saturn. In modern society, depression turns into a way assertion within the emo lifestyle. This advisor unearths depression in the paintings of writers comparable to W. G. Sebald and Jean-Paul Sartre, the paintings of photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto and multi-media artist Gerhard Richter, the movies of Andrei Tarkovsky and Patrick Keiller, the tune of Erik Satie and Tom Waits, the structure and landscapes of ruins, and the twenty first century’s predilection for memorials.

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In a letter to his friend Richard West in 1742, the poet Thomas Gray described his white melancholy, ‘Mine, you are to know, is a white melancholy… which though it seldom laughs or dances, nor ever amounts to what one calls joy or pleasure, yet is a good easy sort of state and ça ne laisse que de s’amuser. ’ Even the very appearance of the melancholic was brooding and black. e. ’17 Yates’s description also suggests the contemporary figure of the melancholic – the Emo. With hair dyed black and falling over the face in a long fringe across one eye, Emos, an abbreviated form of ‘emotional’, embody a melancholy aesthetic.

37 The important distinction for Cioran is between melancholy and sadness, in that pure sadness is irrevocable, while melancholy offers a future, a ‘graceful dream’. While melancholy was well established in the lyrical and pictorial traditions of the late sixteenth century, its significance later paled in the face of the eighteenth century’s codification of the Sublime, the Beautiful and the Picturesque. Vigorous debate was focused on defining and categorising the nature of aesthetic experience and general ideas like ‘beauty’ gave way to more particular definitions.

11-12. The Hunt for Melancholy Laurence Aberhart, Oamaru, Otago, 18 April 1999 2 The Hunt for Melancholy I know why I am sad, but I do not know why I am melancholy. Yet, there are certain qualities, characteristics, sensations, that are recognisable as melancholy. The identifying features of melancholy evolve from traditions of physiognomy, mythological associations, literary constructions, and artistic conventions. Melancholy is not only found in individuals, but across the spectrum of environmental experience and expression, in particular places and at certain times.

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