Chapter

Introduction

Jennifer Radden

in The Nature of Melancholy

Published in print April 2002 | ISBN: 9780195151657
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199849253 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195151657.003.0001
Introduction

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This chapter is divided into four parts. The first part concerns themes that recur in the readings to follow: (1) the variety of forms melancholia takes and the diverse connotations of the terms melancholy and melancholia; (2) fear and sadness without cause as the distressing subjectivity most central to melancholic states; (3) the association between melancholy genius and creative energy; and (4) the link between melancholy and states of idleness. The second part focuses on aspects of this set of texts informed by distinctions and stresses brought to light by the scholarship of the late 20th century: the category of melancholic states as affective; melancholic complaints as subjective and private; ontological commitments about the nature of melancholy; melancholic states as mood states; gender issues; and, finally, the themes of narcissism and loss. The third part sketches a 19th-century shift whereby the hitherto encompassing category of melancholy divides, leaving a sharper distinction between the despondent moods and temperamental differences of normal experience, on the one hand, and, on the other, the clinical disorder of melancholia, which has come to be associated with the clinical depression of our own time. The fourth part notes themes and developments in post-Freudian analyses of the condition known in the 20th century as depression or clinical depression, identifying a typology of explanatory theories.

Keywords: melancholy; melancholia; fear; sadness; mood; gender issues; narcissism; loss; temperament

Chapter.  17503 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy

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