Relation between artistic creation and melancholy will be the object of the course. Under an aesthetical point of view, melancholy – which is a mournful representation of a lost and irretrievable object – is an expression of the Absolute’s nostalgia which art often originates. Preliminary lessons will be dedicate to a general analysis of the several traditions joined to melancholy in different fields (philosophy, medicine, astrology, literature, art) from Aristotle to medieval culture to humanism. A synthesis of these traditions is expressed in Melencolia I (1514) – a famous and meaningful Dürer’s engraving.
In the course’s following part, we will analyze XIX century modern culture – with special reference to Baudelaire’s and Huysmans’s works – developing Dürer’s engraving chief motif. It represents the sorrow of the inactive artist, paralyzed and devoid of inspiration: an emblematic figure which can be assumed – with different meanings bound to it – both as an image of the barren decadent aesthete and of the modern poet unable to carry out his work but attempting to overcome his difficulties.
Course’s contents: (I) Aristotle: melancholy and the genius. – The doctrine of four humours. – Saturn, planet of melancholy. – The midday’s demon: the Fathers of Church and the sloth as a sin. – Eros and melancholy. – The doctrine of four humours in Dürer. – Traditional motifs in Melencolia I. – Meanings of the engraving.
(II) Modern world and the type of the inactive artist: Baudelaire and the “poor monk”. – XIX century’s disease: boredom as emblematic sign of modernity. – Metropolitan wilderness. – Melancholy and phantasmagoria: the commodity. – The sumptuous jail of boredom: Baudelaire and the king of the “rainy country”. – Ornithology of exile: the albatross and the swan. – Melancholy and allegory. – Melancholy and irony. – A symbol of the humbled artist: the clown. – Aureole’s loss and the prosaic world. – From melancholy to elation: the “land of plenty” and the poetic of luxury. – Melancholy and memory: the paradise lost. – Huysmans: the aesthete’s house. – The artist as internal decorator. – The cloister and the jail. – Life as art. – The collector against chaos. – The library and the picture-gallery. –Salomé. – Apology of artifice. – Nature as a mad garden. – Pessimism and decadence. – The end of the Ideal. – Imagination and boredom. – The neurosis. – The impossible journey.
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