For Help With Nostalgia

March 22, 2010


I still don’t know if its better to just live with it or get over it, but in the best interest of newer objects of affection, one might consider getting over it.  Also consider what utopias may be other than fantastical unsustainable ideals.  Are they highly designed escapes?

Read again:

“Nostalgia is a sadness without an object, a sadness which creates a longing that of necessity is inauthentic because it does not take part in lived experience.  Rather, it remains behind and before that experience.  Nostalgia, like any form of narrative, is always ideological: the past it seeks has never existed except as narrative, and hence, always absent, that past continually threatens to reproduce itself as a felt lack.  Hostile to history and its invisible origins, and yet longing for an impossibly pure context of lived experience at a place of origin, nostalgia wears a distinctly utopian face, a face that turns toward a future-past, a past which has only ideological reality.  This point of desire which the nostalgic seeks is in fact the absence that is the very generating mechanism of desire.  As we shall see in our discussion of the souvenir, the realization of re-union imagined by the nostalgic is a narrative utopia that works only by virtue of its partiality, its lack of fixity and closure: nostalgia is the desire for desire.

The prevailing motif of nostalgia is the erasure of the gap between nature and culture, and hence a return to the utopia of biology and symbol united within the walled city of the maternal.  The nostalgic’s utopia is prelapsarian, a genesis where lived and mediated experience are one, where authenticity and transcendence are both present and everywhere.  The crisis of the sign, emerging between signifier and signified, between the material nature of the former and the abstract and historical nature of the latter, as well as within the mediated reality between written and spoken language, is denied by the nostalgic’s utopia, a utopia where authenticity suffuses both word and world.  The nostalgic dreams of a moment before knowledge and self consciousness that itself lives on only in the self-consciousness of the nostalgic narrative. Nostalgia is the repetition that mourns the inauthenticity of all repetition and denies the repetition’s capacity to form identity.  Thus we find that the disjunctions of temporality traced here create the space for nostalgia’s eruption.  The inability of the sign to “capture” its signified, of narrative to be one with tits object, and of the genres of mechanical reproduction to approximate the time of face-to-face communication leads to a generalized desire for origin, for nature, and for unmediated experience that is at work in nostalgic longing.  Memory, at once impoverished and enriched, presents itself as a device for measurement, the “ruler” of narrative.  Thus near-sightedness and far-sightedness emerge as metaphors for understanding, and they will be of increasing importance as this essay proceeds.”  p.23-24 Susan Stewart – On Longing

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