Autumn melancholy.

I closed my window the night before last: it rained steadily all night and Lady Taya the Nervous begged me several times to shut out the din of the thunder.

Perhaps it was a move for the better, as I have it on good authority from the masochists who took the 19th-century novel course, that, in visual art and literature, the image of the woman by an open window foreshadows her immanent departure for her youthful grave. I, of course, have no desire to find myself in such a predicament before I learn more about this fascinating century, which will, this term, become a central theme in my archive.

Two of the courses in which I’m currently enrolled: “The Modern City as a Cultural Object,” and “Art in Revolution: 19th Century Visual Culture” focus their studies on the 19th century. The art history course focuses mainly on works in London and Paris (from about the 1780s to the early 20th century), while the modern city course (a Liberal Studies class) examines primary texts, images, and ideas (“cultural objects”) from the 1839-1939 (with one text from 1945) in the modern cities of Paris, London, Vienna, Berlin, etc.

I’m fairly excited about these two courses particularly: the assignments will allow for a lot of independent research (meaning I’ll be able to write on something which, hopefully, will fascinate me). Too, the reading list for both courses look amazing: the modern city class contains a number of texts — for example, Aragon’s Paris Peasant and Beauvoir’s The Mandarins — which I’ve wanted to read for some time, but for which I’ve never made time. Additionally, both courses will allow me to work with a lot of the theory I started reading last year. In the 17-page introduction to Crow et al.’s Nineteenth Century Art: A Critical History (London: Thames & Hudson, 2007), the writers have already discussed Marx, Blake, Rousseau, Ruskin, Baudelaire, Mallarme, William Morris, Horkheimer, Althusser, Raymond Williams, and Descartes (among others) — which indicates we’ll be reading the works in cultural context. Similarly, the first work we’re reading in the modern city class is part of Walter Benjamin’s Arcades project.

We’re also looking at Atget’s photographs of Old Paris, which Dr. Steer suggested embodied Atget’s melancholic desire to reclaim the old city. In Freudian terms, melancholy is the individual’s refusal to release a lost love object and fix his or her desire on a new body.

I think I’ve been feeling a bit of melancholy, over the last few days, for my Ben research. I do regret the need to (at least temporarily) abandon a familiar body of work (and daily routine) in favour of classes entirely unrelated; however, fixing my scholarly attentions on a new body of research is, of course, a necessary part of academia (if it is not to become stagnant). Having interesting classes as these two will, I think, ease the transition between “thesearch” and the course work in which I will be engaging over the next two years.

[I started this article last Monday; since then, I have decided to drop my modern city course in exchange for a Hercules course next term. No matter how awake one is at seven in the evening, three-hour classes at this time are exhausting: particularly if one also has class three hours before as well, and particularly if one must repeat the schedule twice in one week. Thus I exchange Simone for sanity. Thought I would post it anyways, of only because Atget’s photos are pretty interesting (and because the Freud theory works so well).]

13 September 2008 ~ St. Catharines


One thought on “Autumn melancholy.

  1. I was just about to say, the Cities course sounds really interesting! But, speaking as someone who dropped a 7-10 pm course (having been at school that day since 8 am), I completely understand. Keep us posted!

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