A Field Guide to Melancholy by Jacky Bowring

By Jacky Bowring

A depressive disorder or a passing feeling? psychological detachment or a precursor to genius? depression is a severe a part of what it truly is to be human, but every thing from Prozac to self-help psychology books turns out reason on removal all indicators of disappointment from modern life. A box consultant to depression surveys this ambivalent proposal and takes a trip throughout the articulation of depression in quite a few 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, in addition to nostalgia, pathos, and melancholy’s presiding god, Saturn. In modern society, depression turns into a way assertion within the emo tradition. This advisor unearths depression in the paintings of writers resembling W. G. Sebald and Jean-Paul Sartre, the paintings of photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto and multi-media artist Gerhard Richter, the flicks of Andrei Tarkovsky and Patrick Keiller, the track 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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38 The Sublime is that which is unbounded, beyond comprehension and aweinspiring, and imparts feelings of horror. The Beautiful, on the other hand, brings feelings of joy and pleasure. Kant relates the idea of sensation back to the humoral tradition, aligning aesthetic appreciation – or lack of it – with each of the four temperaments. The phlegmatic is considered to have a deficiency of finer sensation and a comparative apathy, and is dismissed as having no place in 44 A FIELD GUIDE TO MELANCHOLY his study of aesthetics.

While science pushes towards wanting to find clear-cut conditions, striving to determine that melancholy is binary rather than analogue (either you are or you aren’t melancholy) the complexity of melancholy’s mélange resists such cleaving. There are associated questions of morals and ethics which further complicate things, including whether treatments should be pharmaceutical or psychoanalytical, whether psychiatry is universally applicable, and so on, and this book will not seek to extend these particular arguments.

The choleric, too, does not have a deep appreciation of aesthetics, tending to overemphasise the moral consequences of a fine feeling, but only at the level of the gloss. More in keeping with the idea of the beautiful is the character of the sanguine, who is not onedimensional in his or her aesthetic appreciation, but is sensitive to the varied circumstances. The sanguine has adoptive virtues, which are the mark of nobility and compassion. Kant makes a distinction between these adoptive virtues, which are beautiful and charming, and the genuine virtues, described as sublime and venerable.

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