The Future of Nostalgia in Friedrich Schlegel’s Gender Theory: Casting German Aesthetics Beyond Ancient Greece and Modern Europe

  • Jonathan Steinwand


Nostalgia is a sort of homesickness, a pain (algos) or longing to return home (nostos) or to some lost past. The distress that inclines one homeward uproots the relation to the present by drawing one toward where one remembers feeling a sense of wholeness and belonging. The homeward pain of nostalgia presupposes that one’s present place is somehow not homey enough. Nostalgia therefore is generated by a sense of having lost a wholeness only vaguely recollected save for the rare Proustian experience of ‘mémoire involontaire’ or through the explicitly political intervention of aesthetic reification or simulation. The vagueness of the recollection often inspires the idealization of this past. Thus nostalgia summons the imagination to supplement memory. Because nostalgia necessarily relies on a distance — temporal or/and spatial — separating the subject from the object of its longing, the imagination is encouraged to gloss over forgetfulness in order to fashion a more aesthetically complete and satisfying recollection of what is longed for. Such a glossing over temporarily relieves the pain by casting a nostalgic image that has been purified, clarified and simplified in order to supplant the vagueness of the imperfect recollection through aesthetic intervention.


Eighteenth Century Decisive Moment Pure Object Word Absence Modern Poetry 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1997

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  • Jonathan Steinwand

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