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Sohn, L. (1983). Nostalgia. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 64:203-210.

(1983). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 64:203-210


Leslie Sohn

O who can hold a fire in his hand
By thinking on the frosty Caucasus.
Or cloy the hungry edge of appetite
By bare imagination of a feast.
Or wallow naked on fantastick Summer's heat
O no, the apprehension of the good
Gives but the greater feeling to the worse
Fell Sorrow's tooth doth never rankle more
Than when it biteth, but lanceth not the sore.
(Richard II. Act I Scene III)

Everybody claims knowledge of nostalgia, and claims to have experienced it. The media constantly refer to it, as if knowing its meaning.

The Oxford English Dictionary disagrees with all of us, and says we are all wrong, and that we are referring to something else, and the word never appears in the index of Freud's Standard Collected Works.

The OED definition of nostalgia is that it is a form of melancholy caused by prolonged absence from one's country and home, the word first appearing in the late eighteenth century, and being formed by the conjunction of two Greek words meaning a return to home and pain.

This is not the version that the word nostalgia has been given in recent years, it has become an indication of almost a pleasant state of mind, easily attainable by artefacts and psycho-facts, which can be conjured up with relative ease, a process I presume designed to alleviate the underlying melancholy or yearning.

We could find ourselves therefore in a position where we have to consider two forms of nostalgia, true and false, the latter being a defence against the true which has according to the definition almost a clinical quality, akin to a depressive state, possibly to be seen in the case of a true exile, even accompanied by feelings of unworthiness and badness.

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