12 April 17 | Kaija Straumanis

The latest addition to our Reviews section is by Jason Newport on Melancholy by László Földényi, and published by Yale University Press.

In addition to this book review, Jason was able to interview László Földényi about the process behind the book itself. It’s alway interesting to hear or read about a work from the author’s point of view—so look for the Jason’s interview/continuation of this post tomorrow!

Jason Newport is currently a Fulbright scholar and researcher, teaching literature and creative writing at the University of Pécs, Hungary. He serves as a writing instructor in the Department of English at Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Here’s the beginning of his review:

In Melancholy, Hungarian author, critic, and art theorist László Földényi presents a panorama of more than two thousand years of Western historical and cultural perspectives on the human condition known as melancholia. In nine chapters, Földényi contrasts the hero worship and mystery cults of the ancient Greeks, the Hippocratic theory of bodily humors and the medieval astrology of fateful planets, the Renaissance preeminence of the individual and the Romantic inclination toward oblivion, the heartsickness of lover and beloved, the mental and neurological illnesses defined by modern medical science, and the personal dread of “real things passing” or the end of temporary existential illusion in the permanence of loss and death.

Heavy stuff—as one might expect from a title like Melancholy.

Yet readers looking for insight into their own or others’ feelings have often been drawn to such works. Admirers of Robert Burton’s magisterial 1621 volume The Anatomy of Melancholy may find themselves pleased to be introduced here to the fifteenth-century Three Books on Life by the Italian Renaissance writer Marcilio Ficino, which, according to Földényi, “alongside Burton’s massive tome, is the other most important work on melancholia.” For fans of books such as Andrew Solomon’s The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, however, Földényi’s old-school approach, with monolithic paragraphs built upon copious footnotes and a bibliography of fourteen and a half single-spaced pages of sources, could easily appear scholarly to the point of impenetrability.


For the rest of the review, go here. And be sure to come back tomorrow for the interview!


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