"REMEMBER WHEN..." A Consideration of the Concept of Nostalgia.The special place accorded the "beauteous beau·te·ous
Beautiful, especially to the sight.
beau " past of nostalgia in feeling and action is further attested to by the fact that, in English at least, there exists no antonym for it, no word to describe feelings of rejection or revulsion re·vul·sion
1. A sudden, strong change or reaction in feeling, especially a feeling of violent disgust or loathing.
2. Counterirritation used to reduce inflammation or increase the blood supply to an affected area. toward one's past or some segment thereof
- Fred Davis Fred Davis, or Frederick Davis may refer to:
Nostalgia oozes out of our popular culture. Even those of us who have not experienced a particular decade (e.g., the fabulous '50s or the turbulent '60s), find ourselves looking back to those eras with a fondness; we fool ourselves into thinking events of those times affect our own personal biography in a very direct way (2). Previous eras can indeed affect our personal biography, but in an indirect manner. The public culture contains powerful symbols of the past. These symbols become more personal, as we, in some ways, construct our identities from that which is available to us culturally.
Nostalgia as Emotion
The term nostalgia typically conjures up images of a previous time when life was "good." Originally, nostalgia referred to a medical condition. Swiss physician Johannes Hofer Johannes Hofer (born August 3, 1983) is an Italian luger who has competed since 2002. A natural track luger, he won two medals at the 2005 FIL World Luge Natural Track Championships in Latsch, Italy with a silver in the men's doubles and a bronze in the mixed team events. coined the term in the late seventeenth century to refer to the extreme homesickness that Swiss mercenaries Swiss mercenaries were soldiers 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. experienced. Symptoms of nostalgia, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. Hofer, included not only persistent thoughts about home, but also melancholy, insomnia insomnia, abnormal wakefulness or inability to sleep. The condition may result from illness or physical discomfort, or it may be caused by stimulants such as coffee or drugs. However, frequently some psychological factor, such as worry or tension, is the cause. , anorexia, weakness, anxiety, lack of breath, and palpitations of the heart (in McCann, p.5). In 1863, Dr. De Witt De Witt, uninc. town (1990 pop. 8,244), Onondaga co., central N.Y., a residential suburb of Syracuse. C. Peters defined nostalgia this way: "[A] species of melancholy, or a mild type of insanity, caused by disappointment and a continuous longing for home" (McCann, p.22) (3).
Nostalgia today is most typically regarded as an emotion. "So easily and 'naturally' does the word come to our tongues nowadays," wrote Davis, "that it is much more likely to be classed with such familiar emotions as love, jealousy, and fear than with such 'conditions' as melancholia MELANCHOLIA, med. jur. A name given by the ancients to a species of partial intellectual mania, now more generally known by the name of monomania. (q.v.) It bore this name because it was supposed to be always attended by dejection of mind and gloomy ideas. Vide Mania., , obsessive compulsion, or claustrophobia claustrophobia /claus·tro·pho·bia/ (-fo´be-ah) irrational fear of being shut in, of closed places.
An abnormal fear of being in narrow or enclosed spaces. " (p.4). The bittersweet bittersweet, name for two unrelated plants, belonging to different families, both fall-fruiting woody vines sometimes cultivated for their decorative scarlet berries. nature of nostalgia can make it a difficult emotion. While one's nostalgic memories may connote con·note
tr.v. con·not·ed, con·not·ing, con·notes
1. To suggest or imply in addition to literal meaning: "The term 'liberal arts' connotes a certain elevation above utilitarian concerns" a pleasant or good time in the past, the fact that the individual is removed from that ideal situation can trigger sadness and a sense of loss. If nostalgia is a sickness, there is no cure. If it is a problem, there is no solution. Even when one returns to a place he longs for, neither he nor the place is the same as the nostalgic recollection. If one is nostalgic for a particular "time," there is no way of going back. And, even if one could go back in time, the life experiences and subsequent changes in the self would make the nostalgic recollection inapplicable in·ap·pli·ca·ble
Not applicable: rules inapplicable to day students.
Mills and Coleman (4) defined nostalgia as "the bittersweet recall of emotional past events. Nostalgia is a type of autobiographical memory An autobiographical memory is a personal representation of general or specific events and personal facts. Autobiographical memory also refers to memory of a person’s history. An individual does not remember exactly everything that has happened in one’s past. " (p.205). Harper (5) alluded to the inherent contradictions that nostalgia embodies:
Nostalgia combines bitterness and sweetness, the lost and the found, the far and near, the new and the familiar, absence and presence. The past which is over and gone, from which we have been or are being removed, by some magic becomes present again for a short while. But its realness seems even more familiar, because renewed, than it ever was, more enchanting and more lovely (p. 120).
I find it interesting that the emotions of love and nostalgia have been compared. As McCann (3) noted, Widal (in 1869) "pointed out that the longings in homesickness were very much like those of an unhappy lover. Little by little they take on the propositions of a real passion, sometimes causing the victim to seek solitude in order to concentrate more fully upon his cherished memories of home" (p.43). Furthermore, Harper (5) stated that
...love and nostalgia cannot be separated. ... In both love and nostalgia a wave of presence swirls around with a wave of loss. ... We are not nostalgic for mud or evil, for what has hurt us, for suffering. We are not nostalgic for the absurd, for tragedy, for comedy, or for whatever is unfriendly. We are homesick home·sick
Acutely longing for one's family or home.
homesick only for what makes happy sense to us (p. 105).
Nostalgia as Distinct from Other, Related Terms
How is nostalgia distinguished from the terms "reminiscing" or "sentimentality Sentimentality
dog given as gift to Nixon; used in his defense of political contributions during presidential campaign (1952). [Am. Hist.: Wallechinsky, 126]
comic strip in which sentimentality is the main motif. "? Reminiscing refers to recollecting, recalling. Reminisces take the form of remembering the past - the good or the bad. Reminisces, then, need not focus only on pleasant memories of bygone by·gone
Gone by; past: bygone days.
One, especially a grievance, that is past: Let bygones be bygones. times. Reminiscing therefore connotes a broader, more general term than nostalgia. Furthermore, reminiscing calls upon the cerebral - it suggests an intellectual exercise. "Sentimental" conjures up the image of a teary-eyed individual touched by a current experience that strikes an emotional chord or the remembrance of a past experience. I consider myself a sentimental person, which is to say that I easily respond emotionally; feeling is powerful. Nostalgia, however, is more complicated than these other terms. Nostalgia connotes emotion, thought, and, in some sense behavior. Nostalgia extends beyond sentimentality. While the latter more likely connotes a fleeting feeling, the experience of nostalgia affects one's emotional state in a profound manner. Feeling nostalgia, expressing and experiencing nostalgia - this requires active reconstruction of the past - active selection of what to remember and how to remember it. While this activity occurs more subconsciously than consciously, it occurs nevertheless. Add the component of longing and we see that nostalgia involves a whole host of cognitions and emotions.
And yet, does the "nostalgiac" truly long to go back in time? Instead, I think it is more a longing to recapture a mood or spirit of a previous time. Or, perhaps, to rediscover Re`dis`cov´er
v. t. 1. To discover again.
Verb 1. rediscover - discover again; "I rediscovered the books that I enjoyed as a child" a former self (a self that seemed more like the "true self," for instance). Hence, nostalgic reverie as a phenomenological experience. Perhaps we "nostalagize" (6) for those things which symbolize what we wish for. In philosophical terms, nostalgia may enable one to discover (or think about) one's sense of the "Good" or the "Right." As Chilton (7) suggested, "nostalgia could be very valuable in helping us figure out what people want - their positive goals - apart from the conflicts and hostility." According to Naughton and Vlasic (8), "the nostalgia phenomenon is not simply about America reliving re·live
v. re·lived, re·liv·ing, re·lives
To undergo or experience again, especially in the imagination.
To live again.
Noun 1. a Golden Age. It is about reinterpreting it. We may look back through rose-colored glasses, but few want to live in the past for the sake of authenticity" (p.60). Similarly, Lowenthal (9) stated that "[f]ew admirers of the past would actually choose to return to it - nostalgia expresses longings for times that are safely, rather than sadly, beyond recall" (p.28).
These days, we think of nostalgia as a cultural phenomenon rather than a personally subjective one. While it began - conceptually and experientially - as a very private phenomenon centered on one's longing for home, it has become - due in large part, no doubt, to commercialization and the realization that nostalgia sells - a more public experience. Consider Davis's distinction between collective and private nostalgia, where collective nostalgia
refers to that condition in which the symbolic objects are of a highly public, widely shared and familiar character, i.e., those symbolic resources from the past which can under proper conditions trigger off wave upon wave of nostalgic feeling in millions of persons at the same time ... by contrast, private nostalgia refers to those symbolic images This article or section may contain original research or unverified claims.
Please help Wikipedia by adding references. See the for details.
This article has been tagged since September 2007. and allusions from the past which by virtue of their resource in a particular person's biography tend to be more idiosyncratic id·i·o·syn·cra·sy
n. pl. id·i·o·syn·cra·sies
1. A structural or behavioral characteristic peculiar to an individual or group.
2. A physiological or temperamental peculiarity.
3. , individuated, and particularistic par·tic·u·lar·ism
1. Exclusive adherence to, dedication to, or interest in one's own group, party, sect, or nation.
2. in their reference, e.g., the memory of a parent's smile (p.222).
Nostalgia thus operates in both a public and private domain. The cultural wave of nostalgia certainly reflects the collective nostalgia that Davis wrote about. Collective nostalgia can serve the purpose of forging a national identity; expressing patriotism. It also might reflect selective remembering and selective forgetting that occur at the collective level.
Nostalgia as Leisure
Americans have less and less time for leisure pursuits. Nostalgia, however, constitutes a form of leisure that need not necessarily take much time or many resources. Pickering (10) noted, "[m]y meditations on nostalgia suggest that it is a leisure activity. It seems to have something in common with Wordsworth's idea of poetry as 'recollection in tranquillity,' needing both distraction from immediate concerns and deliberate recollection for its manifestation" (p.207). During such busy, hectic times, the exercise of nostalgia might function as forced downtime - a means of escape and/or relaxation. Incidentally, a game currently on the market called Life Stories invites players to recall family events. Such a game speaks to the marketing of nostalgia, but also to nostalgia as leisure pursuit and to the increasing value of narratives/personal remembrances.
Cameron and Gatewood (11) reviewed social-psychological explanations for the nostalgia craze in contemporary America, including nostalgia as a slowing mechanism - i.e., "a psychological adaptation A psychological adaptation, also called an Evolved psychological mechanism or EPM, is an aspect of a human or other animal's psychology that serves a specific purpose, and was created and selected by evolutionary pressures. to circumstances of rapid culture change during which individuals fear becoming obsolete." Gatewood also suggested that nostalgia is a psychological luxury of the affluent, leisure class. Here, the idea is that nostalgia requires leisure time and resources. "Rummaging through the minutiae mi·nu·ti·a
n. pl. mi·nu·ti·ae
A small or trivial detail: "the minutiae of experimental and mathematical procedure" Frederick Turner. of the past, real or imagined, is a narcissistic nar·cis·sism also nar·cism
1. Excessive love or admiration of oneself. See Synonyms at conceit.
2. A psychological condition characterized by self-preoccupation, lack of empathy, and unconscious deficits in pastime for those with too much leisure time." Whether nostalgia is more characteristic among members of the middle or upper classes is a question requiring an empirical answer. Various expressions of nostalgia demand differing resources. Nostalgia, as expressed by extensive travel and perhaps the collecting of antiques will indeed need resources; nostalgia, as expressed by personal reverie or the sharing of the "good old days" in a circle of friends will not.
Nostalgia as Facilitating the Continuity of Identity
According to Aden (12), "nostalgia indicates individuals' desire to regain some control over their lives in an uncertain time" (p.21). Aden views nostalgic communication as a means of temporal escape. He stresses the need for facilitating the continuity of identity; nostalgic communication serves in this capacity. Aden stated:
Nostalgic communication provides individuals with a means of symbolically escaping cultural conditions that they find depressing and/or disorienting dis·o·ri·ent
tr.v. dis·o·ri·ent·ed, dis·o·ri·ent·ing, dis·o·ri·ents
To cause (a person, for example) to experience disorientation.
Adj. 1. . Using communication to move through time allows individuals to situate sit·u·ate
tr.v. sit·u·at·ed, sit·u·at·ing, sit·u·ates
1. To place in a certain spot or position; locate.
2. To place under particular circumstances or in a given condition.
adj. themselves in a sanctuary of meaning, a place where they feel safe from oppressive cultural conditions (p.35) (13).
Similarly, Davis suggested that "nostalgia is one of the means - or better, one of the more readily accessible psychological lenses - we employ in the never ending work of constructing, maintaining, and reconstructing our identities" (p.31).
Relevant in this context is reminiscence rem·i·nis·cence
1. The act or process of recollecting past experiences or events.
2. An experience or event recollected: "Her mind seemed wholly taken up with reminiscences of past gaiety" therapy, which helps the elderly maintain an awareness of who they are. Individuals working with the elderly increasingly use nostalgia in their work. Objects might be brought into the nursing home that remind patients of the past. Opportunities are offered for elderly individuals to share stories from yesteryear yes·ter·year
1. The year before the present year.
2. Time past; yore.
yes . Thus, nostalgia as therapy.
Nostalgia as Longing for Home - But What is "Home"?
Nostalgia is more than "homesickness." Nostalgia refers to the desire for a time and place that may be subjective (e.g., "remember when I felt secure, confident?") or physical ("remember the house we grew up in?" or, "remember the college campus where we were students?"). "Home" itself could very well need a redefinition. McCann offered the following possible meanings of "home":
Home may mean the people of the neighborhood, community, town, state, or country. When in another town one may be very happy to meet a person who is a total stranger if that person is from his home town. ... Home may mean one's close friends, or one's neighbors. ... Home may mean the way in which things are done, the characteristic patterns of behavior, the customs, the attitudes, the beliefs, and the mode of living.
With respect to this latter conception of home, McCann points out, interestingly, that cases of homesickness are reported among those for whom "home-life was hard and cruel, and whose homes were characterized by hardships and poverty. Apparently, it matters little whether the person is from the palatial pa·la·tial
1. Of or suitable for a palace: palatial furnishings.
2. Of the nature of a palace, as in spaciousness or ornateness: a palatial yacht. residential section or the slum areas" (pp.143-145).
In this postmodern, multicultural time, "home" has become a problematic concept. Each of us, it seems, lives simultaneously in many social spheres. This, inevitably, makes it more difficult to define "home," to establish a "home."
Defining nostalgia today requires going "above and beyond" the original definition that nostalgia is an emotion of longing for a past. Admittedly, the longing may be for a past that did not necessarily exist (we do engage in selective memory). Nostalgia may be experienced collectively, in the sense that nostalgia occurs when we are with others who shared the event(s) being recalled, and also in the sense that one's nostalgia is often for the collective - the characteristics and activities of a group or institution in which the individual was a participant. Nostalgia might guide behavior and influence psychological processes (e.g., regarding self-esteem - we might say, "If I could do that back then, I must be a competent person"). Nostalgia may be a means of facilitating the continuity of identity in looking back to our past grounds us; we have a sense of who we were, who we are, and who we are becoming.
Harper described nostalgia as natural: "Nostalgia is the natural way in adversity that man has to feel his own permanence and stability, and through himself the delight in reality as a whole. It is artificial, but it is not contrived. It is secondhand, but is nonetheless persuasive. It is far too common to all kinds of people in all kinds of stations and situations to dismiss as unimportant."
Nostalgia may padlock the path between then and now. Or, nostalgia may give us a key to the gate connecting the lessons of the past and the needs of the present. If American culture is awash Awash (ä`wäsh), river, E Ethiopia, rising near Addis Ababa and flowing c.500 mi (800 km) to a swampy lake near the Djibouti border. The Awash Valley is important agriculturally and has hydroelectric plants. in nostalgia, then perhaps the concept deserves (demands) more attention. The term seems to embody contradiction and ambiguity. Perhaps this is largely the appeal of the term. It eschews simple definition or categorization. My own reverie is calling me to play my '80s tapes and albums - ah, yes, the decade during which I came of age.
NOTES AND SOURCES
1. Davis, F. Yearning For Yesterday: A Sociology of Nostalgia. New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of : The Free Press, 1979.
2. I have found, in previous research, this interesting phenomenon of people expressing nostalgia for a time not even known to them firsthand first·hand
Received from the original source: firsthand information.
first . Tom Vanderbilt calls this phenomenon "displaced nostalgia" (in the Utne Reader Utne Reader is an American bimonthly magazine. The magazine collects and reprints articles from generally alternative media sources, including journals, newsletters, weeklies, zines, music, and DVDs. , vol. 64, July/August, 1994: 131-132).
3. McCann, W. "Nostalgia: A Descriptive and Comparative Study." Doctoral Thesis, Dept. of Psychology, Indiana University Indiana University, main campus at Bloomington; state supported; coeducational; chartered 1820 as a seminary, opened 1824. It became a college in 1828 and a university in 1838. The medical center (run jointly with Purdue Univ. , 1940.
4. Mills, M. A. & Coleman, P. G. "Nostalgic Memories In Dementia - A Case Study." International Journal of Aging and Human Development 38 (1994): 203-219.
5. Harper, R. Nostalgia: An Existential Exploration of Longing and Fulfillment in the Modern Age. The Press of Western Reserve University, 1966.
6. As far as I know, we do not have terms to indicate the act of waxing nostalgic - thus, I introduce "nostalagize." Furthermore, what do we call someone who is a nostalgic person? How about a "nostalgiac"? (I thank Tom Isbell for working with me on coining such terms.)
7. Chilton, S. Personal conversation, 1997.
8. Naughton, K. & Vlasic, B. "The Nostalgia Boom: Why the Old is New Again." Business Week, March 23, 1998: 58-64.
9. Lowenthal, D. "Nostalgia Tells It Like It Wasn't." In The Imagined Past: History and Nostalgia, ed. C. Shaw, 18-32. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1985.
10. Pickering, J. "Remembering D-Day: A Case History in Nostalgia." In Narratives of Nostalgia, Gender, and Nationalism, ed. J. Pickering & S. Kehde. New York: New York University Press New York University Press (or NYU Press), founded in 1916, is a university press that is part of New York University. External link
11. Cameron, C. M. & Gatewood, J. B. "The Authentic Interior: Questing Gemeinschaft in Post-Industrial Society "Post-industrial" redirects here. For the grouping of music genres, see post-industrial (music).
A post-industrial society is a society in which an economic transition has occurred from a manufacturing based economy to a service based economy, a diffusion of national and ." Human Organization 53 (1994): 21-32.
12. Aden, R. C. "Nostalgic Communication as Temporal Escape: When It Was A Game's Re-construction of a Baseball/Work Community." Western Journal of Communication 59 (1995): 20-38.
13. Questions arise: What form does "nostalgic communication" take? Are some more adept at this type of communication than others? Of course such communication might leave certain interaction partners out of the conversation. If they do not share the memories being recalled, then they remain outsiders.
Janelle L. Wilson, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology-Anthropology, University of Minnesota (body, education) University of Minnesota - The home of Gopher.
Address: Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. , Duluth. She notes: "I wish to thank LeAne Rutherford at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, for her interest in and comments on my paper."