The Rise of Countermourning
Drawing on insights from multiple disciplines, the chapter identifies the discursive prominence of melancholia in a wide range of public settings between 1850 and 1950, and the self-conscious employment of the “melancholic symptom” in art and literature of the period. It suggests a reassessment of the concepts of mourning and melancholia and of the ways in which they are used in literary criticism. This reconceptualization accords with the “modernist” psychoanalysts’ own reflections of melancholia/mourning, and takes into account specific social dynamics of the period such as the waning of mourning rites. Identifying in modernist literature an impulse to “countermourn”, the chapter furthermore contrasts the modernist use of the melancholic symptom to all previous “aesthetic melancholias.” The interaction of the contemporaneous theories of melancholia and the narrative strategies in modernist fiction is explored in detail, and with reference to a wide range of novels.
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