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The Faces of Depression in Literature

Edited By Josefa Ros Velasco

The Faces of Depression in Literature brings together some of the best-known specialists and scholars on the topic of depression in literature worldwide to offer a multidisciplinary approach concerning the philosophical, theological, and literary narratives of depression over time and their approximations to the current, clinical understanding of Major Depressive Disorder. The authors clarify the background of depression by paying attention to its representation through these narratives and revalue them as a means of acquiring knowledge in an interdisciplinary way. This pioneering initiative fills the knowledge gap that still exists concerning the nature of depression from a multidisciplinary perspective that takes into account some cross-cutting narratives. The authors give voice to the forgotten manifestations of depression found in literature, philosophy, theology, and even early medical works. The Faces of Depression in Literature is for graduates and researchers on depression from a cultural and social point of view, including philosophers, historians, cultural theorists, literature and art experts and enthusiasts, as well as artists and writers themselves, specialists in mental health and cognitive psychology, and anyone interested in a better understanding of the human condition.
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1 Acedia and Its Relation to Depression (Derek McAllister (Baylor University, Texas))


1 Acedia and Its Relation to Depression

Derek McAllister

Baylor University, Texas


There are prima facie grounds for thinking acedia and depression are somehow related. Acedia, that old deadly sin of sloth, is marked characteristically by idleness, laziness, aversion to work, slackness, and even sorrow. Depression is marked characteristically by sadness, dullness, loss of pleasure, emptiness, and, sometimes, irritability—these are stereotypical characterizations, to be sure; nevertheless, it is instructive beginning with such familiar but crude generalizations, then proceed to analyze, clarify and correct them as needed. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) identifies at least one necessary condition for inclusion in the category of depressive disorders, i.e., a sad, empty, or irritable mood:

The common feature of all [depressive] disorders is the presence of sad, empty, or irritable mood, accompanied by somatic and cognitive changes that significantly affect the individual’s capacity to function. What differs among them are issues of duration, timing, or presumed etiology. (American Psychiatric Association 2013, 155)

The DSM has, since its third iteration (1980), overtly eschewed reference to etiology as a diagnostic criterion for depression in favor of identifying symptoms and behavior in descriptivist language as diagnostic criteria.1 This intentional move leaves room for clinicians and practitioners to theorize, on a case-by-case basis, about the etiology of any particular person’s depression,2 rather than have the matter settled legislatively at the outset. In what follows, I shall...

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