Nostalgia

Nostalgia

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The term nostalgia describes a yearning for the past, often in idealized form.
The word is a learned formation of a Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 compound, consisting of (nóstos), meaning "returning home", a Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

ic word, and (álgos), meaning "pain, ache". It was described as a medical condition, a form of melancholy, in the Early Modern period
Early modern period
In history, the early modern period of modern history follows the late Middle Ages. Although the chronological limits of the period are open to debate, the timeframe spans the period after the late portion of the Middle Ages through the beginning of the Age of Revolutions...

, and became an important trope in Romanticism
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

.

In common, less clinical usage, nostalgia sometimes includes a general interest in past eras and their personalities and events, especially the "good old days" of a few generations back recast in an idyllic light, such as the Belle Époque
Belle Époque
The Belle Époque or La Belle Époque was a period in European social history that began during the late 19th century and lasted until World War I. Occurring during the era of the French Third Republic and the German Empire, it was a period characterised by optimism and new technological and medical...

, Merry England
Merry England
"Merry England", or in more jocular, archaic spelling "Merrie England", refers to an English autostereotype, a utopian conception of English society and culture based on an idyllic pastoral way of life that was allegedly prevalent at some time between the Middle Ages and the onset of the Industrial...

, Neo-Victorian
Neo-Victorian
Neo-Victorian is an aesthetic movement which amalgamates Victorian and Edwardian aesthetic sensibilities with modern principles and technologies...

 aesthetics, the US "Antebellum" Old South
Old South
Geographically, Old South is a subregion of the American South, differentiated from the "Deep South" as being the Southern States represented in the original thirteen American colonies, as well as a way of describing the former lifestyle in the Southern United States. Culturally, the term can be...

, etc. Sometimes it is brought on by a sudden image, or remembrance of something from one's childhood.

As a medical condition



The term was coined in 1688 by Johannes Hofer (1669–1752) in his Basel
Basel
Basel or Basle In the national languages of Switzerland the city is also known as Bâle , Basilea and Basilea is Switzerland's third most populous city with about 166,000 inhabitants. Located where the Swiss, French and German borders meet, Basel also has suburbs in France and Germany...

 dissertation.
Hofer introduced nostalgia or mal du pays "homesickness
Homesickness
Homesickness is the distress or impairment caused by an actual or anticipated separation from the specific home environment or attachment objects....

" for the condition also known as mal du Suisse "Swiss illness" or Schweizerheimweh "Swiss homesickness", because of its frequent occurrence in Swiss mercenaries
Swiss mercenaries
Swiss mercenaries were notable for their service in foreign armies, especially the armies of the Kings of France, throughout the Early Modern period of European history, from the Later Middle Ages into the Age of the European Enlightenment...

 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. Allegedly, the first use of the word in a publication was in Sir Joseph Banks' journal of the first voyage of Captain Cook in the Pacific, when, near Java, he stated that the sailors "were now pretty far gone with the longing for home which the physicians have gone so far as to esteem a discease under the name 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 1782, while I lay in barracks at Tin mouth
Tynemouth
Tynemouth is a town and a historic borough in Tyne and Wear, England, at the mouth of the River Tyne, between North Shields and Cullercoats . It is administered as part of the borough of North Tyneside, but until 1974 was an independent county borough in its own right...

 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 appetite soon mended; and I saw in less than a week, evident signs of recovery."


By the 1850s
1850s
- Wars :* Crimean war fought between Imperial Russia and an alliance consisting of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, the Second French Empire, the Kingdom of Sardinia and the Ottoman Empire...

 nostalgia was losing its status as a particular disease and coming to be seen rather as a symptom or stage of a pathological process. It was considered as a form of melancholia
Melancholia
Melancholia , also lugubriousness, from the Latin lugere, to mourn; moroseness, from the Latin morosus, self-willed, fastidious habit; wistfulness, from old English wist: intent, or saturnine, , in contemporary usage, is a mood disorder of non-specific depression,...

 and a predisposing condition among suicides. Nostalgia was, however, still diagnosed among soldiers as late as the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

. By the 1870s
1870s
The 1870s continued the trends of the previous decade, as new empires, imperialism and militarism rose in Europe and Asia. America was recovering from the Civil War. Germany declared independence in 1871 and began its Second Reich. Labor unions and strikes occurred worldwide in the later part of...

 interest in nostalgia as a medical category had all but vanished. Nostalgia was still being recognized in both the First
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 and Second
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 World Wars, especially by the American armed forces. Great lengths were taken to study and understand the condition to stem the tide of troops leaving the front in droves (see the BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 documentary Century of the Self).

As a description


Nostalgia is often triggered by something reminding the individual of an event or item from their past. The resulting emotion can vary from happiness to sorrow. The term of "feeling nostalgic" is more commonly used to describe pleasurable emotions associated with and/or a longing to go back to a particular period of time.

Romanticism


Swiss nostalgia was linked to the singing of Kuhreihen, which were forbidden to Swiss mercenaries because they led to nostalgia to the point of desertion, illness or death. The 1767 Dictionnaire de Musique by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer of 18th-century Romanticism. His political philosophy influenced the French Revolution as well as the overall development of modern political, sociological and educational thought.His novel Émile: or, On Education is a treatise...

 claims that Swiss mercenaries were threatened with severe punishment to prevent them from singing their Swiss songs. 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
Clemens Brentano
Clemens Brentano, or Klemens Brentano was a German poet and novelist.-Overview:He was born in Ehrenbreitstein, near Koblenz, Germany. His sister was Bettina von Arnim, Goethe's correspondent. His father's family was of Italian descent. He studied in Halle and Jena, afterwards residing at...

'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
Swiss Alps
The Swiss Alps are the portion of the Alps mountain range that lies within Switzerland. Because of their central position within the entire Alpine range, they are also known as the Central Alps....

 was a significant factor in the enthusiasm for Switzerland, the development of early tourism in Switzerland
Tourism in Switzerland
Tourists are drawn to Switzerland's Alpine climate and landscapes, in particular for skiing and mountaineering.As of 2006, tourism accounted for an estimated 3.6% of Switzerland's gross domestic product.- History :...

 and Alpinism
Exploration of the High Alps
The higher region of the Alps were long left to the exclusiveattention of the men of the adjoining valleys, even when Alpine travellers began to visit these valleys. It is reckoned that about 20 glacier passes were certainly known before 1600, about 25 more before 1700, and yet another 20 before...

 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
Wanderlust
Wanderlust is a strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world.-Etymology:The loanword from German language became an English term in 1902 as a reflection of what was then seen as a characteristically German predilection for wandering that may be traced back to German...

expressing the Romantic desire to travel and explore.

See also

  • Americana
    Americana
    Americana refers to artifacts, or a collection of artifacts, related to the history, geography, folklore and cultural heritage of the United States. Many kinds of material fall within the definition of Americana: paintings, prints and drawings; license plates or entire vehicles, household objects,...

  • Golden age (metaphor)
    Golden Age (metaphor)
    A golden age is a period in a field of endeavour when great tasks were accomplished. The term originated from early Greek and Roman poets who used to refer to a time when mankind lived in a better time and was pure .-Golden Age in society:...

  • Historic preservation
    Historic preservation
    Historic preservation is an endeavor that seeks to preserve, conserve and protect buildings, objects, landscapes or other artifacts of historical significance...

  • Old-time radio
    Old-time radio
    Old-Time Radio and the Golden Age of Radio refer to a period of radio programming in the United States lasting from the proliferation of radio broadcasting in the early 1920s until television's replacement of radio as the primary home entertainment medium in the 1950s...

  • Ostalgie
    Ostalgie
    Ostalgie is a German term referring to nostalgia for aspects of life in East Germany. It is derived from the German words Ost and Nostalgie ....

  • Retro style
  • Saudade
    Saudade
    Saudade ) is a unique Galician-Portuguese word that has no immediate translation in English. Saudade describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. It often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return...

  • Sehnsucht
    Sehnsucht
    Sehnsucht is a German word literally meaning "longing", which C. S. Lewis used to describe an "insatiable longing" for "we know not what".Sehnsucht could also refer to:* Sehnsucht , 2009 album* "Sehnsucht"...

  • Solastalgia
  • Yugo-nostalgia
    Yugo-nostalgia
    Yugo-nostalgia is a little-studied psychological and cultural phenomenon occurring among citizens of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia...