A Field Guide to Melancholy by Jacky Bowring

By Jacky Bowring

A depressive sickness 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 symptoms of disappointment from modern life. A box consultant to depression surveys this ambivalent notion and takes a trip during the articulation of depression in numerous 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 ancient 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 resembling 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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This potent, elusive beauty is a unique quality of melancholy, and one at the polar extreme to the aesthetic delight of that which brings joy. Edgar Allan Poe pronounced sadness and melancholy the sites of Beauty’s ‘highest manifestation’, and as death is the supreme melancholy topic, then its poetical potency is enhanced when aligned with beauty. 46 Such a complete immersion in the connection of beauty and melancholy was echoed in the words of the poet Charles Baudelaire. He confines all beauty to that connected to sadness, and his words seal the conundrum of melancholy and beauty:‘I have found a definition of the Beautiful, of my own conception of the Beautiful.

40. 168. 41. Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Judgment (trans. John T. 162. 117. 42. 166. 43. 16-23. 44. 131-132. 45. 41. 46. 61. 47. 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.

36 Looking back to the imagery of this time, Romanian philosopher EM Cioran finds that melancholy beauty has a subdued gracefulness that is not there in tragic and intense sadness. He writes of the ‘strange sickly beauty’ of THE CONUNDRUMS OF MELANCHOLY 43 melancholy and its ‘passivity, dreaminess, and voluptuous enchantment’. ’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.

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