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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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5 Nihilism, Depression, and Wholeheartedness. Metacognitive Strategies in 19th-Century Literature (Søren Harnow Klausen (University of Southern Denmark))


5 Nihilism, Depression, and Wholeheartedness. Metacognitive Strategies in 19th-Century Literature

Søren Harnow Klausen

University of Southern Denmark

Introduction: Nihilism and Depression

It is a commonplace that one of the most pervasive topics of 19th-century literature was the specter of nihilism. What has been much less widely observed—apart from the fact that the concept of nihilism emerged already at the end of 18th century, and should not be associated too narrowly with figures from the second half of the 19th century, like Turgenev or Nietzsche—is the close link between nihilism and depression. In textbooks and encyclopedias, nihilism is usually presented as a philosophical viewpoint, that is, as an articulated belief system, a deliberate and reasoned rejection of traditional beliefs in the meaningfulness of life, objective morality, or religious doctrines. However, when 19th-century intellectuals described a worrying tendency towards nihilism, they were not so much concerned with a theoretical stance or Weltanschauung as with a kind of mood or mental disease, a condition that befell individuals regardless of their explicit attitudes or intentions. While this condition was undoubtedly seen as connected to the rise of a more or less scientific, disenchanting world-view, the focus was on the psychological and existential ramifications. What was diagnosed in the literature of the time was a lack of ability to believe (and act, and feel), rather than a rational decision not to believe.

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