Modernism and Melancholia: Writing as Countermourning

ISBN : 9780199977956

Sanja Bahun
256 Pages
163 x 241 mm
Pub date
Dec 2013
Modernist Literature & Culture
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The malaise of melancholia has a long tradition in literature, theory, and the visual arts, from Durer's famous sixteenth-century engraving (Melencolia I) and Milton's "Il Penseroso," to Walter Benjamin's Arcades and Lars Von Triers' recent film Melancholia. Sanja Bahun's monograph uses the mental condition as a jumping-off point to advance new approaches to modernist novelists from around Russia, the Czech Republic, and Britain. Informed by the writings of Freud, Klein, Judith Butler, and others, Bahun argues that formal explorations by modernist authors are best interpreted as narratives of historical melancholia. Specifically, Modernism and Melancholia shows how a range of novels from 1913 to 1941 perform melancholia in their diction, images, metaphors, syntax, and experimental narrative techniques. Drawing on the narrative theorist, Bakhtin, Bahun applies the term chronotope to link all these formal characteristics to a historical moment bounded by two world wars, the loss of stable identities, and the rise of racism and totalitarianism. Melancholic symptoms, once they become performative, create a modernist relationship to history that becomes both passionately engaged and curiously withdrawn. The three core novels at the heart of the study are Andrei Bely's Petersburg, Franz Kafka's The Castle, and Virginia Woolf's Between the Acts. Modernism and Melancholia adds an important transnational perspective to modernist studies and comparative literature more broadly.


List of Abbreviations
Chapter 1: Modernism: The Rise of Countermourning
Chapter 2: Andrei Bely and the Spaces of Historical Melancholia
Chapter 3: "Schlossgeschichten werden erzahlt?": Franz Kafka and the Empty Depth of Modernity
Chapter 4: Virginia Woolf and the Search for Historical Patterns
Conclusion: Redescribing the World: Closing Apertures

About the author: 

Sanja Bahun is Lecturer in the Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies at the University of Essex. She is the coeditor of Violence and Gender in the Globalized World: The Intimate and the Extimate (Ashgate, 2008) and serves on the Executive Committee of the British Comparative Literature Association (BCLA).

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