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Additional resources for Melancholy Dialectics: Walter Benjamin and the Play of Mourning (Critical Perspectives on Modern Culture)
Modernist literature is melancholy; conversely, melancholy writing bears within it something disturbingly, undeniably modern. But, for Kristeva, "this writing is today confronted with the postmodern challenge. . " The constellation of melancholia sinks, revealing its exact, somehow chiral reflection. "The postmodern is closer to the human comedy than to the abyssal discontent"; the world of hell, of the theology of evil as deprivation of meaning, has transformed itself from a literature of emergency, a difficult literature, into something more familiar, more accessible, and more comfortable.
Thus melancholic, choleric, phlegmatic, or sanguine conditions could emerge as explanatory accounts for specific personality traits, which themselves were not necessarily to be regarded as pathological or even as undesirable. 38 Page 23 The direct connection between physical pathology and abnormal temperamentbetween physical and spiritual conditionsand a disharmony or imbalance of the constitution made the doctrine of humoral pathology a powerful descriptive paradigm, one that fit extremely well with the Pythagorean fascination with mathematical, natural, and cosmological proportion.
Such is the "wonderment" of it all, for Kristeva, for one who has captured this mystical historiography and who can observe the infinite cycling of metaphysical worlds where we see only the ahistorical fixity of our own. Page 4 For such a privileged perspective, melancholia is indeed here forever, since it corresponds to the very ground of our emergence as speaking and acting persons. But a melancholy world is only a world awaiting its own parody. Thus Kristeva proclaims herself as a cultural critic who, by pulling herself out of the endless historical and intellectual cycle of melancholy/comedy, wins an insight into the power and the ephemerality of both.