Copyright Date: 2008
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    The surprising claim of this book is that dwelling on loss is not necessarily depressing. Instead, embracing melancholy can be a road back to contact with others and can lead people to productively remap their relationship to the world around them. Flatley demonstrates that a seemingly disparate set of modernist writers and thinkers showed how aesthetic activity can give us the means to comprehend and change our relation to loss.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-03696-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Introduction: Melancholize
    (pp. 1-10)

    The writing of this book originated in my desire to explain something that seemed simultaneously self-evident and poorly understood. That is: not all melancholias are depressing. More precisely, if by melancholia we mean an emotional attachment to something or someone lost, such dwelling on loss need not produce depression, that combination of incommunicable sorrow and isolating grief that results in the loss of interest in other persons, one’s own actions, and often life itself. In fact, some melancholias are the opposite of depressing, functioning as the very mechanism through which one may be interested in the world. This book is...

  4. Glossary: Affect, Emotion, Mood (Stimmung), Structure of Feeling
    (pp. 11-27)
  5. CHAPTER ONE Modernism and Melancholia
    (pp. 28-75)

    We are all of us celebrating some funeral.


    It is not difficult to see how modernity—in its meanings as a particular experience of time and as a set of concrete transformations of the material world of everyday life—is related to the experience of loss. The very origin of the word “modernity,” frommodernus,meaning “now” or “of today” (as opposed to “of yesterday”) implies a problematic sense of anteriority, the sense that the past is lost and gone.¹ This was a new time-consciousness, one not oriented toward repeating cycles or...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Affective Mapping
    (pp. 76-84)

    In his influential 1960 bookThe Image of the City,Kevin Lynch explored the ways residents internalize maps of their cities. These cognitive maps give one a sense of location and direction, and enable one to make decisions about where one wants to go and how to get there.¹ A later scholar helpfully defined cognitive mapping as “a process composed of a series of psychological transformations by which an individual acquires, stores, recalls and decodes information about the relative locations and attributes of the phenomena in his everyday spatial environment.”² Lynch studied three different cities—Boston, Los Angeles, and Jersey...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Reading into Henry James: Allegories of the Will to Know in The Turn of the Screw
    (pp. 85-104)

    Henry James’s literary career reached what was probably its nadir on January 5, 1895, when, on the opening night of his playGuy Domville,James was booed, jeered, and even assaulted with tomatoes by a literally riotous crowd.¹ This spectacular rejection left James, who in any event tended toward depression, feeling that he had “fallen upon evil days—every sign or symbol of one’s being in the least wanted, anywhere or by anyone, having so utterly failed.”² Even a year after the opening night incident, James would write: “In spite of my gain of private quiet I have suffered very...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR “What a Mourning”: Propaganda and Loss in W. E. B. Du Bois’s Souls of Black Folk
    (pp. 105-157)

    This book has so far argued for the usefulness of the term “affective mapping” to name a particular set of aesthetic strategies that allow one to perceive the historicity of one’s affective experience, especially experiences of difficult, potentially depressing loss.¹ By historicity here, I mean first of all the specificity of a particular historical moment. The affective map represents subjective emotional life as the precipitate formed by the intersection of a set of social processes and institutions, and as such shared by other persons who are subject to the same forces. I also mean historicity in the sense suggested by...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Andrei Platonov’s Revolutionary Melancholia: Friendship and Toska in Chevengur
    (pp. 158-190)

    Socialism as antidepressant: this is indeed how socialism is presented in Andrei Platonov’sChevengur,the 1927 novel about peasant life in the Russian steppe in the years leading up to and following the October revolution. While the notion of socialism as salve for depression may in the present-day context of Prozac and capitalist triumphalism seem counterintuitive at best, for the reader ofChevengur,the realization by the self-named peasant “Dostoevsky” about halfway through the novel that he has been depressed by lack of socialism does not come as a surprise. It is no surprise first of all because we have...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 193-248)
  11. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 249-254)
  12. Index
    (pp. 255-263)