An Uncanny Melancholia

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Date

2007-03-01

Authors

蘇子中

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Department of English, National Taiwan Normal University

Abstract

Abstract Albrecht Dürer’s engraving Melencolia I gives its viewers a rare glimpse into the Medieval and Renaissance “view” (psychological and aesthetic) of melancholia. Nevertheless the frame, which literally draws a line between the “real world” and the engraving, is unable to hold firm due to the uncanny, penetrating gaze of Melencolia, the winged female melancholic figure. Hers are not the downcast eyes formerly attributed to the melancholic or child of Saturn; she gazes outward beyond the frame, staring into that unknowable outer space. This paper argues that Dürer’s Melencolia I offers more than a medical, psychological or philosophical “moral” (by characterizing the melancholic as a sick or insane person, or a person worn down by thinking about geometry and architecture). Rather, it presents a melancholic Faustian figure with an age-old craving for forbidden or “uncanny” knowledge. Thus the primary focus here is on the uncanny nature of melancholia in Dürer’s Melencolia I; also explored will be the question of “the melancholy Other” and “the ecstasy of the signs of melancholia.”

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