IMC 2006: Sessions

Session 713: Melancholic Gestures in Medieval Literature, Medicine, and Philosophy, I: Theories and Practices of the 'Discourse of Melancholy'

Tuesday 11 July 2006, 14.15-15.45

Organisers:Andrea Sieber, Institut für Deutsche & Niederländische Philologie, Freie Universität Berlin
Antje Wittstock, Institut für Deutsche & Niederländische Philologie, Freie Universität Berlin
Moderator/Chair:Elke Koch, Sonderforschungsbereich 'Kulturen des Performativen', Freie Universität Berlin
Paper 713-a'Vom Sanguiniker zum Melancholiker': Melancholic Self-Fashioning in Late Medieval German Autobiographical Contexts
(Language: English)
Antje Wittstock, Institut für Deutsche & Niederländische Philologie, Freie Universität Berlin
Index terms: Anthropology, Daily Life, Language and Literature - German, Philosophy
Abstract

‘Invidus et tristis, Cupidus. Dextraque tenacis, Non expers fraudis, Timidus, luteique coloris.’ Medieval mnemonics like this one on the ‘melancholicus’ seem to stand for a commonly known connection between certain physical and facial expressions – or gestures – and a corresponding state of mind or emotion of melancholy. However, medical, philosophical, and literary texts show that the ‘discourse of melancholy’ is subject to significant variations that highly depend on its context of use, on its users and their emotional communities, and on their intentions. Taking these into consideration, contributors to our session illustrate variations of the discourse and the consequences for its inherent gestures: texts of the Arabic Middle Ages show the productive interaction of medical theory and practice; in the German autobiographical context, melancholic gestures are used in order to demonstrate humanistic self-fashioning.