Skip to Content

Search: {{$root.lsaSearchQuery.q}}, Page {{$}}

"On the Clinical Picture of Nostalgia - and a Remote Literature" by Dr. Maria Oikonomou-Meurer

Monday, November 28, 2011
5:00 AM
Classics Library, 2175 Angell

In the mid-17th century, and especially after Johannes Hofer's Dissertation medica De Nostalgia oder Heimwehe (1688), the nostalgic condition was separated from melancholy and madness, and classified among the most serious physical afflictions. Nostalgia had, at its core, the insistent pondering of "home" - a lost space, ideally refashioned in memory, which blocked all other impressions. At the time, it was not just associated with symptoms like anorexia, mood swings, sadness, and delusion, but also linked to deviant behavior - acts of violence, perversion, and mental obfuscation. Eventually, when the appearance of psychoanalysis, this clinical and rather violent concept of homesickness would fade and finally be replaced by the modern notion of nostalgia, as a longing for the past.

This lecture explores the interference of medicine and literature with respect to the historical development of nostalgia. On the one hand, it reconstructs the narrative subtexts in the older scientific discourse. On the other, it traces the reflex of this non-literary discourse of modern literature, examining the pathology of nostalgia in Greek poetry and prose. Why did the peripheral Greek literature embrace this new discursive knowledge, and which mechanisms and agents supported its import?