Orlando looking at Jaque's reverberated image: “Which I take to be either a fool or a cipher.” ( As You Like It III.ii 279)
1Melancholia posits the intersection of the biological and the symbolic, ambivalently motivating and undermining the imaginary (viz. for example, Kristeva's “On the melancholic imaginary”). That reverberates across history in assessments of loss, mourning and absence. “Acedia,” the radical melancholy of the Egyptian monks of early Christianity, the “noontime demon” of sloth, entails the temptation of demonic thoughts and the proliferation of images, an otiose, immobilised hankering. Their chiaroscuro deserts are the spiritual landscape of the Promethean myths of transgressive fantasies of knowledge. The melancholy utopia of Burton, under the mask of mad Democritus, pits the meditative individual against repressive society. Melancholy has been either a foreboding of the tragic human condition or a lucid self-analysis. Historically, solipsistic melancholia may mark the elegiac transformation of meditation as transitive upon the epic dimension of the actual world (the Homeric “home”) to its modern, self-constitutive power as “trauerspiel.” With Kierkegaard, “acedia” becomes “tristitia,” a despair grown self-conscious between sin and passion: the solitary misanthropists or the scornful elect. Looking both towards medieval times and to the Renaissance, Dürer's figure is linked to sloth and to geometry, a blasphemous picture of the creative artist anticipating Blake and/or Romantic irony. Both the early modern and the post-modern periods entertain a peculiarly intimate relationship with melancholy because they are two moments of the history of ideas when “A New Philosophy calls all in doubt.” Deconstruction is a questioning of the metaphysical value on which Western humanism has been grounded, from the Reformation on and through the Enlightenment. A symptom of the periodic angst and restlessness of the Western subject when confronted with the necessity to redefine itself in the world. Literary melancholy has various avatars that come to the fore at times of existential crisis, from Renaissance man's Faustian sprezzatura to Romantic agony, post-modern pastiche and openness.
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Max DUPERRAY, Adrian HARDING et Joanny MOULIN, « Foreword », E-rea [En ligne], 4.1 | 2006, mis en ligne le 15 juin 2006, consulté le 24 mars 2017. URL : http://erea.revues.org/260Haut de page
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