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The Faces of Depression in Literature

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Organizer: Josefa Ros Velasco

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THE FACES OF DEPRESSION IN LITERATURE



 



Organizer: Prof. Dr. Josefa Ros Velasco (Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, Harvard University) rosvelasco@fas.harvard.edu





 



The NIH (National Institute of Mental Health) defines depression as a common but serious mood disorder that causes severe symptoms (asthenia, anhedonia, abulia, among many others) that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. The cause is believed to be a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors and affects approximately 216 million people (3% of the world's population) mostly ranged from 20 to 30 years old. Nowadays, depression is also known for its many synonyms: clinical depression, MDD (Major Depressive Disorder), unipolar depression, unipolar disorder, depressive episode, and recurrent depressive disorder, to name a few. However, literary expressions gather the many names and faces that shaped this widespread and well-known disorder throughout history, especially when mental health treatises were scarce. Thus, it is common to find the background of modern depression linked to concepts such as the Greeks aegritude (θλίψη, aegritudo) and black bile (μέλαινα χολή, melaina chole), the Latin acedia and taedium vitae, the Renaissance tristitia and melancholia, as well as the modern ennui, spleen, mal de vivre, nausée, noia, Weltschmerz… all of which have been present in the literary works of all times. This seminar attempts to bring together specialists and scholars in the topic from a multidisciplinary approach to explore the many literary expressions of depression over time and discuss about their approximations to current, clinical understanding of MDD, i.e., their similarities and differences, taking into account the environmental and psychological factors on which such a mental disorder depends in each historical period. Our goal is to clarify the background of depression by paying attention to its representation through literature and revalue literature itself as a means of acquiring knowledge in an interdisciplinary way. 



 


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