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Beyond Melancholy: Sadness and Selfhood in Renaissance England (Sydney)

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Date: Thursday 16 May
Time: 2-3:30pm
Venue: Woolley Common Room, Woolley Building, The University of Sydney
Speaker: Dr Erin Sullivan

Today modern behavioural scientists regularly identify sadness as one of the six 'basic' emotions in human life, suggesting a degree of consistency across people regardless of place or time. But in the time of England's Renaissance - and also perhaps more than we realize in our own - what sadness might mean to a thinker, writer, or sufferer was by no means a straightforward matter. In this talk Dr Erin Sullivan explores the distinctive ways in which some of the most distinguished physicians, theologians, philosophers, and poets in the period defined sadness, very often using it as a means to explore broader questions about the nature of the self and its relationship to the wider world. Building on existing work in the field focused on the condition of melancholy, Dr Sullivan's talk will highlight the multiple varieties of emotional experience linked to sadness in this period (including, but not limited, to grief, godly sorrow, and despair), as well as the different kinds of spiritual and material selfhood they were believed to produce.

Erin Sullivan is a Lecturer and Fellow at the Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham, where she works on the relationship between medical, religious and literary culture in Renaissance England. She has published work in Cultural History and Studies in Philology and is one of the co-editors of The Renaissance of Emotion: Understanding Affect in Early Modern Culture, forthcoming from Manchester University Press. She is currently completing a book on sadness and selfhood in Renaissance literature and culture.

For more information contact Cassie Charlton.