A Field Guide to Melancholy

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Oldcastle Books, 2008 - Psychology - 240 pages
5 Reviews
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 from contemporary existence. A Field Guide to Melancholy surveys this ambivalent concept and takes a journey through the articulation of melancholy in a variety of languages, from the Russian toska of Pushkin'sEugene Onegin to kaihowhich 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 emo subculture. This guide finds melancholy within the work of writers such as W. G. Sebald and Jean-Paul Sartre, the art of photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto and multi-media artist Gerhard Richter, the films of Andrei Tarkovsky and Patrick Keiller, the music of Erik Satie and Tom Waits, the architecture and landscapes of ruins, and the 21st century's predilection for memorials.

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Review: A Field Guide to Melancholy

User Review  - Heather Fowler - Goodreads

I really enjoyed this book's exploration of melancholy's connection to beauty and genius--and difference from depression. This is a quick read with a variety of references to both literature and ... Read full review

Review: A Field Guide to Melancholy

User Review  - Barry Belmont - Goodreads

Much like the feelings it describes, this book left me ambivalent, shrugging my shoulders with an existential "meh." It wasn't bad, it wasn't great. Much more could be said, but it wasn't. Read full review


The Hunt for Melancholy

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About the author (2008)

Jacky Bowring is a critic, designer, and writer. She is associate professor of landscape architecture at Lincoln University in New Zealand and has published widely on landscape and architecture.

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