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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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3 Giambattista Vico and the Melancholy of History (Miriam Muccione (University of Chicago))


3 Giambattista Vico and the Melancholy of History

Miriam Muccione

University of Chicago

The present chapter aims to reconstruct the role of melancholy in the work of the 18th century Neapolitan philosopher Giambattista Vico (1668–1744), the New Science (1725, 1730, 1744 [1984]), in the context of what Vico calls the ideal eternal history, the path of development common to all nations, melancholy emerges as the physical, emotional, and human mental responses that accompany the interventions of divine providence on the course of human civil life.

In his treatise dedicated to the health of the intellectual, Three books on life [De vita libri tres or De triplici vita] (1989), written between 1480 and 1489, the Neoplatonic philosopher, physician, and one of the most influential Renaissance interpreters of ancient medicine, Marsilio Ficino (1433–1499) refers to the link between melancholy and the intellectual achievements proposed by the Aristotelian tradition. Through a philosophical syncretism of Platonic metaphysics, Galenic medicine, magic, and astrology, Ficino supports the theory of the productive influence of the planet Saturn, associated with melancholy, on contemplative life. According to Ficino, all intellectuals are melancholy and, yet, only the very few who manage to reduce the paralyzing excesses of black bile, by keeping it at its natural temperature, can benefit from its positive influence on the contemplative life. As an intellectual, Ficino himself dealt with the unbalances of melancholy, a life mark that he traces back to his day of...

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