Quotes from “Concluding Thoughts on Depression: Hamlet and His Progeny,” the last chapter of A Scream Goes Through the House: What Literature Teaches Us About Life by Arnold Weinstein..."a book about the power of literature to heal and interact with our experiences" and simpático in spirit with Peace Through Fiction.
“Depression seems to be nature’s scheme for letting us experience death ahead of time, for letting some of us experience it on virtually a chronic basis...I feel that depression tests my thesis as nothing else does. What is depression if not that unheard ‘scream that goes through the house’?” (373)
“We know that Shakespeare inherited a view of human inconstancy and indeterminacy from Montaigne, whose splendid term ondoyant (wavelike) perfectly captures the fluid nature of identity.” (380)
“I want to now characterize depression as a state in which one’s cogency and projects lose their validity, in which the things one has done, perhaps for decades, all of a sudden appear emptied out, mere constructs: one’s work, one’s relations, one’s beliefs.” (383)
“...depression turns reality into theater. Not theater as something multicolored and vital, but theater as hollowness and artifice, theater as unreality. . .One fine day you discover how theatrical your life is, how what seemed natural and spontaneous and self-evident is now somehow different: mechanical, a role, a construct. This can apply to everything: having a meal, loving a spouse, going to work, writing or reading a book.” (384)
“William Faulkner’s genius consists in finding a new narrative language for just this consciousness, the incessant thinking that can be a feature of depression.” (389)
“I do not know how to overstate this last point: art and literature provide for us a unique means of travel, of vicarious experience, of seeing the world with new lenses, of vacating—at least for a bit—the cramped quarters where we keep house. There can be no better medicine against depression.” (393)
“Shakespeare wrote that ‘something is rotten in the state of Denmark,’ and I believe that what is rotten about modernity, what constitutes our own special plague, is excessive consciousness, a lifelong jail sentence in our own minds, the dreadful condition of being locked into our perceptual system and hence locked out of everyone else’s. This is the death of love as well as the shrinkage of life. This is poison in the ear and in the heart.
“And this is why literature matters. Art is that other place that can become ours, those other selves we also are. The experience of art is a precious exercise in freedom, in negotiating subjectivities and lives that are not our own. Strange as it may initially seem, Faulkner’s tortured novel [The Sound and the Fury] about a tortured young man is therapeutic and liberating along just these lines: as a magic venture out of our own precincts and into something rich and strange.”(394)
Arnold Weinstein links ~
Arnold L. Weinstein, Brown University Research Arnold Weinstein, Brown University, Department of Comparative Literature
Book discussion ~
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