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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 and Self-authorship

(p.198) Conclusion
Beyond Melancholy

Erin Sullivan

Oxford University Press

The book concludes with a consideration of how deeply embedded sadness was in Renaissance medical, philosophical, and theological conceptions of selfhood, and also points to the relevance of such issues today. Reflecting on the trend in early modern literary studies to read most representations of passion as articulations of humoral materialism, it argues for greater emotional pluralism in the period and for an understanding of Renaissance sadness that stretches beyond melancholy. While all affective experience offered opportunities for self-definition, it suggests that sadness was especially and even exceptionally generative of self-identity given its intensely contradictory valuation in medico-philosophical and religious writings. In this sense it was among the most powerfully self-revelatory emotions of the period, enabling forms of emotive improvisation that recognized, reconfigured, and also refuted cultural expectations about the nature of passion and its place in human life.

Keywords:   sadness, selfhood, melancholy, Renaissance, Galenic humoralism, emotive improvisation

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