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Public Lecture: The Paradox of Melancholia: Paralysis and Agency

Prof. Jeffrey Prager, Psychoanalyst & Cultural Sociologist, UCLA
Thursday 21 June 2012 – 6:30 pm
Flinders in the City
182 Victoria Square (the old Reserve Bank Building)

The Paradox of Melancholia
Symposium
Conveners: Professor Brian Castro, Professor Anthony Elliott, A/Prof Jennifer Rutherford
Friday 22nd-Saturday 23rd June 2012

A notoriously slippery concept, melancholy has been understood as a disease (melancholia), an affect, a mood, a style, a zeitgeist, a form of political dissent and a form of political reaction. Shifting in its meaning from one historical epoch to another, and understood in contradictory ways in the competing discourses of medicine, poetics, and politics, the various melancholies nevertheless share some defining traits.

Over its long history, melancholy is a concept that links a series of twinned opposites: illness, disequilibrium, spleen, loss, grief, pain, paralysis, a-sociality and art, poetry, politics, protest and even that other outmoded concept Рgenius. In contemporary social and cultural theory, however, there is general distrust of this long association of melancholy with creativity. The convenors of this workshop contend, however, that the contradictions that have freighted melancholy since antiquity are core to understanding how the interior states of melancholy translate into social forms and forces, and are core to recognising melancholy as one of the principle ways that unspeakable forms of suffering and loss find expression in the cultural realm.

This project will bring together writers, artists, psychoanalysts and social cultural theorists to focus a new lens on this paradox, so as to reframe melancholy as a productive affect, and to explore the way melancholy moves from an individual state into works that, in turn, impact upon collectivities.

‘The Paradox of Melancholia’ – Full abstract

An Academy of Social Science Workshop held in collaboration with Flinders Centre for Global Futures, the J.M. Coetzee Research Centre for Creative Practice and supported by the Ian Potter Foundation.

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