Thresholds of melancholy
I take as my point of departure Maurice Natanson's essay, "From Apprehension to Decay: Robert Burton's "Equivocations of Melancholy'."3 One might be slightly disconcerted by the emergence of Burton in Natanson's corpus, since the better known trajectory might begin with Pascal or Kierkegaard, take Husserl as its central station of transfer, then Sartre, and Schutz. But Burton makes a certain sense, for, like Natanson, he writes between the literary essay and the diagnostic reflection, and, like Natanson, he takes as the occasion for his reflection precisely that state of the self that does not directly appear, but that might be said to haunt any such appearance. Not everyone knows that Natanson considered a medical career, and still fewer understand that in some sense he has never given it up. But what is it that is subject to diagnostic reflection and why is it that the essay becomes the genre in which this diagnosis proceeds? If diagnosis does not have an object, what does it have, and how might we speak about it? What kind of writing does the diagnosis become when that which it seeks to know persists as the undelineated and undelineatable in the self?
Butler, J. (1995)., Thresholds of melancholy, in S. Crowell (ed.), The prism of the self, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 3-12.
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