Beyond Melancholy: Sadness and Selfhood in Renaissance England

ISBN : 9780198739654

Erin Sullivan
256 ページ
156 x 234 mm
Emotions in History

From Shakespeare's Hamlet to Burton's Anatomy to Hilliard's miniatures, melancholy has long been associated with the emotional life of Renaissance England. But what other forms of sadness existed alongside, or even beyond, melancholy, and what kinds of selfhood did they help create? Beyond Melancholy explores the vital distinctions Renaissance writers made between grief, godly sorrow, despair, and melancholy, and the unique interactions these emotions were thought to produce in the mind, body, and soul. While most medical and philosophical writings emphasized the physiological and moral dangers of the 'dis-ease' of sadness, warning that in its most extreme form it could damage the body and even cause death, new Protestant teachings about the nature of devotion and salvation suggested that sadness could in fact be a positive, even transformative, experience, helping to humble believers' souls and bring them closer to God. The result of such dramatically conflicting paradigms was a widespread ambiguity about the value of sadness and a need to clarify its significance through active and wilful interpretation - something this book calls 'emotive improvisation'. Drawing on a wide range of Renaissance medical, philosophical, religious, and literary texts - including, but not limited to, moral treatises on the passions, medical text books, mortality records, doctors' case notes, sermons, theological tracts, devotional and elegiac poetry, letters, life-writings, ballads, and stage-plays - Beyond Melancholy explores the emotional codes surrounding the experience of sadness and the way writers responded to and reinterpreted them. In doing so it demonstrates the value of working across source materials too often divided along disciplinary lines, and the special importance of literary texts to the study of the emotional past.


Introduction: Approaching Sadness
1 Sadness, Selfhood, and Dis-ease
2 Grief: Passion, Action, and the Possibility of Self-knowledge
3 Melancholy: Humorous Identity and the Allure of Genius
4 Godly Sorrow: Feeling Faith and the Broken-down Heart
5 Despair: Narrative Authority and the Drama of Doubleness
Conclusion: Sadness and Self-authorship


Erin Sullivan is a Senior Lecturer and Fellow at the Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham. Her work focuses on the relationship between emotion, culture, and identity, both in Shakespeare's time and today. She is the co-editor of The Renaissance of Emotion: Understanding Affect in Shakespeare and His Contemporaries (2015) and Shakespeare on the Global Stage: Performance and Festivity in the Olympic Year (2015).