A depressive illness or a passing feeling? Mental detachment or a precursor to genius? Melancholy is a critical part of what it is to be human, yet everything from Prozac to self help psychology books seems intent on removing all signs of sadness, depression, or, quite simply, low moods from contemporary existence. Complex and contradictory, melancholy's presence weaves through the histories of both science and art. A Field Guide to Melancholy surveys this ambivalent concept and takes a journey through its articulation in a variety of languages, from the Russian toska of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin, to kaiho - which is expressed in the dancing of the Finnish tango. Melancholy is found in the historic traditions of death's presence in paradise, the tears of nature, along with nostalgia, pathos, and melancholy's presiding god, Saturn. In contemporary society, melancholy becomes a fashion statement in the subculture of the Emo whilst shelves are rife with self help books encouraging readers to overcome depression. By drawing on a range of disciplines from psychology and philosophy to architecture and design, and by examining the work of creative figures as different as Ingmar Bergman, Albrecht Durer, WG Sebald and Tom Waits, Jacky Bowring provides an original perspective on one of the most elusive, enigmatic and fascinating of human conditions.
Jacky Bowring is a critic, designer, and writer.
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