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Beyond MelancholySadness and Selfhood in Renaissance England$
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Erin Sullivan

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198739654

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198739654.001.0001

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Sadness, Selfhood, and Dis-ease

Sadness, Selfhood, and Dis-ease

(p.16) 1 Sadness, Selfhood, and Dis-ease
Beyond Melancholy

Erin Sullivan

Oxford University Press

This chapter establishes the dominant emotional standards or ‘emotionologies’ of sadness and selfhood in Renaissance England, highlighting the distinctions many writers made between the experience of grief and sorrow arising from worldly disappointments, melancholic sadness supposedly stemming from no specific external cause, godly sorrow growing out of an awareness of mankind’s sinfulness, and spiritual despair emerging from a conviction that one did not deserve God’s salvation. At the same time, it considers how the fluid nature of Renaissance disease (and its analogue ‘dis-ease’) constantly unsteadied such theoretical boundaries, leading to a more composite and comingled understanding of sorrowful self-experience in many contemporary texts. The result, it argues, was a highly charged but remarkably open space for interpreting, framing, and improvising diverse visions of sorrowful identity, which could challenge received wisdom on the nature of sadness as often as reinforce it.

Keywords:   sadness, grief, melancholy, godly sorrow, despair, history of disease, history of medicine, history of religion, disease frames, emotional communities

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