This article came to my attention.
Of course, I must say something.
While I tend to agree that melancholy as an aesthetic emotion usually involves reflection, contemplation, and imagination, I think there are times when the "fit" comes on one without any reflective, contemplative, imaginative, or even associative object. Even without a locational stimulus, such as a church or nature setting (mentioned in the essay). And not even requiring solitude. Sometimes, maybe, melancholy arrives owing to either a vivid or an indistinct awareness of being as a bare fact, whether one is alone or not. In other words, there is no object or context, except the context of simply being-there.
Also...while I do agree with the authors Brady and Haapala that melancholy is a form of aesthetic emotion, I think an opportunity was missed for a deeper dissection.
Reflection, contemplation, narrative, imagination -- these things are fine as far as it goes. But what is "beneath" this? Maybe something metaphysical? Maybe something about the nature of world and our possible but rare intuitions about it?
My stupid opinion continues: melancholy is an aesthetic emotion because it's an emotion deriving from extreme sensitiveness to quality or to qualities. Some science-brained folks now say that reality is comprised of pure information. But maybe it's actually made up of pure qualities.
So...when we get weird and melancholy before a work of art, that might be because the artist has captured (and we recognize) subtle aspects of quality analogous to or connected with strands of pure quality making up a world.
I just think the word "aesthetic" needs an intenser definition than was provided or indicated in the otherwise worthy article. Beyond categories of pleasure-pain, sublimity-awe, levitation-stupefaction, perhaps the term "aesthetic" could be placed within a deeper texture -- quality as such (this reminds me of Pursig's motorcycle zen book). And so, melancholy as an aesthetic emotion might be construed as how-it-feels to touch into that deeper texture of world qualities. Maybe the world itself suffers a little bit from melancholia, a bit overwhelmed to be composed of such a vast array of pulsating, inexplicable qualities. A quiet hysteria of time, substance, form.
Anyway...my favorite part was the last paragraph of section five -- about ruins and transience and such.
|Melancholy, 1891 -- Edvard Munch|