nostalgia n : longing for something past
EtymologyFrom French nostalgie, from νοσταλγία (nostalgia), from Ancient Greek νόστος (nostos) "a return home, travel, journey" + suffix -αλγία (-algia), from άλγος (algos) "pain, grief".
- A bittersweet yearning for the things of the past.
bittersweet yearning for the past
The word is made up of two Greek roots ( nostos "returning home", and algos "pain"), to refer to "the pain a sick person feels because he wishes to return to his native land, and fears never to see it again". It was described as a medical condition, a form of melancholy, in the Early Modern period, and came to be an important topos in Romanticism.
As a medical conditionThe term was coined in 1688 by Johannes Hofer (1669-1752) in his Basel dissertation. Hofer introduced nostalgia or mal du pays "homesickness" for the condition also known as mal du Suisse "Swiss illness" or Schweizerheimweh "Swiss homesickness", because of its frequent occurrence in Swiss mercenaries who in the plains of lowlands of France or Italy were pining for their native mountain landscapes. English homesickness is a loan translation of nostalgia.
Cases resulting in death were known and soldiers were sometimes successfully treated by being discharged and sent home. Receiving a diagnosis was, however, generally regarded as an insult. In 1787, Robert Hamilton (1749-1830) described a case of a soldier suffering from nostalgia, who received sensitive and successful treatment:
- "In the year 1781, while I lay in barracks at Tin mouth in the north of England, a recruit who had lately joined the regiment,...was returned in sick list, with a message from his captain, requesting I would take him into the hospital. He had only been a few months a soldier; was young, handsome, and well-made for the service; but a melancholy hung over his countenance, and wanness preyed on his cheeks. He complained of a universal weakness, but no fixed pain; a noise in his ears, and giddiness of his head....As there were little obvious symptoms of fever, I did not well know what to make of the case...Some weeks passed with little alteration...excepting that he was evidently become more meager. He scarcely took any nourishment...became indolent...He was put on a course of strengthening medicines; wine was allowed him. All proved ineffectual. He had now been in the hospital three months, and was quite emaciated, and like one in the last stage of consumption... On making my morning visit, and inquiring, as usual, of his rest at the nurse, she happened to mention the strong notions he had got in his head, she said, of home, and of his friends. What he was able to speak was constantly on this topic. This I had never heard of before...He had talked in the same style, it seems, less or more, ever since he came into the hospital. I went immediately up to him, and introduced the subject; and from the alacrity with which he resumed it.. I found it a theme which much affected him. He asked me, with earnestness, if I would let him go home. I pointed out to him how unfit he was, from his weakness to undertake such a journey [he was a Welchman] till once he was better; but promised him, assuredly, without farther hesitation, that as soon as he was able he should have six weeks to go home. He revived at the very thought of it... His apeitite soon mended; and I saw in less than a week, evident signs of recovery."
By the 1850s, nostalgia was losing its status as a disease and coming to be seen as a symptom or stage of a pathological process. It was considered as a form of melancholia and a predisposing condition among suicides. By the 1870s, interest in nostalgia as a medical category had all but vanished.
RomanticismSwiss nostalgia was stronly linked to the singing of Kuhreihen. The claim that these songs were forbidden on pain of death to Swiss mercenaries because their causing violent nostalgia to the point of desertion, illness or death in their compatriots was widely repeated in the 18th century, and appears in the 1767 Dictionnaire de Musique by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. It became somewhat of a topos in Romantic literature, and figures in the poem Der Schweizer by Achim von Arnim (1805) and in Clemens Brentano's Des Knaben Wunderhorn (1809) as well as in the opera Le Chalet by Adolphe Charles Adam (1834) which was performed for Queen Victoria under the title The Swiss Cottage. The Romantic connection of nostalgia, the Kuhreihen and the Swiss Alps was a significant factor in the enthusiasm for Switzerland, the development of early tourism in Switzerland and Alpinism that took hold of the European cultural elite in the 19th century.
German Romanticism coined an opposite to Heimweh, Fernweh "far-sickness", "longing to be far away", like Wanderlust expressing the Romantic desire to travel and explore.
- Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia (NY: Basic Books, 2001)
- Boulbry, Gaëlle and Borges, Adilson. Évaluation d’une échelle anglo-saxonne de mesure du tempérament nostalgique dans un contexte culturel français (Evaluation of an anglo-saxon scale of measurement of nostalgic mood in a French cultural context)
- Simon Bunke: Heimweh. In: Bettina von Jagow / Florian Steger (Eds.): Literatur und Medizin im europäischen Kontext. Ein Lexikon. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 2005. Sp. 380-384.
- Coromines i Vigneaux, Joan. Diccionari etimològic i complementari de la llengua catalana [Barcelona, Curial Edicions Catalanes, 1983]
- Davis, Fred Yearning for Yesterday: a Sociology of Nostalgia. New York: Free Press, 1979.
- Hofer, Johannes, "Medical Dissertation on Nostalgia." Bulletin of The Institute of the History of Medicine. Trans. Carolyn Kiser Anspach 2.6 ((1688) Aug. 1934): 376-91.
- Hunter, Richard and Macalpine, Ida. Three Hundred Years of Psychiatry:1535-1860, [Hartsdale, NY, Carlisle Publishing, Inc, 1982]
- Hutcheon, Linda "Irony, Nostalgia, and the Postmodern"
- Jameson, Fredric "Nostalgia for the Present." The South Atlantic Quarterly, 88.2 (1989): 527. 60.
- Goodman's http://www.lclark.edu/~jgoodman/webpage%20ULTIMATE/Index.htm
- Thurber, Christopher A. and Marian D. Sigman, "Preliminary Models of Risk and Protective Factors for Childhood Homesickness: Review and Empirical Synthesis." Child Development 69:4 (Aug. 1998): 903-34.
- Dylan Trigg, The Aesthetics of Decay: Nothingness, Nostalgia, and the Absence of Reason (New York: Peter Lang, 2006) http://www.peterlang.com/index.cfm?vID=68646&vLang=E&vHR=1&vUR=2&vUUR=1
- Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia (New York: Basic Books, 2002)
- Nostalgia cartoons from 70's and 80's (in Polish).
- Linda M. Austin, 'Emily Bronte's Homesickness', Victorian Studies, 44:4 (summer 2002): 573-596.
- "The Memory of McGuffey" - Nostalgia for the McGuffey Readers
- Simon Bunke: Heimwehforschung.de
nostalgia in Bulgarian: Носталгия
nostalgia in Catalan: Nostàlgia
nostalgia in Czech: Nostalgie
nostalgia in Danish: Nostalgi
nostalgia in German: Nostalgie
nostalgia in Spanish: Nostalgia
nostalgia in French: Nostalgie (sentiment)
nostalgia in Icelandic: Nostalgía
nostalgia in Italian: Nostalgia
nostalgia in Hebrew: נוסטלגיה
nostalgia in Dutch: Nostalgie
nostalgia in Japanese: ノスタルジア
nostalgia in Norwegian: Nostalgi
nostalgia in Norwegian Nynorsk: Nostalgi
nostalgia in Portuguese: Nostalgia
nostalgia in Russian: Ностальгия
nostalgia in Sicilian: Nustargìa
nostalgia in Slovak: Nostalgia
nostalgia in Finnish: Nostalgia
nostalgia in Swedish: Nostalgi
nostalgia in Vietnamese: Nostalgia
nostalgia in Ukrainian: Ностальгія
nostalgia in Chinese: 懷舊
Heimweh, aching, bathos, bleeding heart, cloyingness, daydream, daydreaming, desiderium, goo, hankering, hearts-and-flowers, homesickness, honing, languishing, languishment, longing, mal du pays, maladie du pays, maudlinness, mawkishness, mush, mushiness, namby-pamby, namby-pambyism, namby-pambyness, nostomania, oversentimentalism, oversentimentality, pining, romanticism, sentiment, sentimentalism, sentimentality, slop, sloppiness, slush, soap opera, sob story, sweetness and light, tearjerker, wishful thinking, wishfulness, wistful eye, wistfulness, yearnfulness, yearning, yen