The term nostalgia
describes a longing for the past, often in idealized
form. The word is made up of two Greek roots (νόστος nostos
"returning home", and άλγος algos
"pain"), to refer to "the pain a sick person feels because he wishes to return to his native home, and fears never to see it again". It was described as a medical condition, a form of melancholy
, in the Early Modern period
, and came to be an important topic in Romanticism
The term was coined in 1688 by Johannes Hofer (1669-1752) in his Basel
Hofer introduced nostalgia
or mal du pays
" for the condition also known as mal du Suisse
"Swiss illness" or Schweizerheimweh
"Swiss homesickness", because of its frequent occurrence in Swiss mercenaries
who in the plains of lowlands of France or Italy were pining for their native mountain landscapes. English homesickness
is a loan translation
. Cases resulting in death were known and soldiers were sometimes successfully treated by being discharged and sent home. Receiving a diagnosis was, however, generally regarded as an insult.
In 1787, Robert Hamilton (1749–1830) described a case of a soldier suffering from nostalgia, who received sensitive and successful treatment. In 1781, in the north of England, Hamilton met a new recruit who had "a melancholy hung over his countenance, and wanness preyed on his cheeks", a "universal weakness, but no fixed pain; a noise in his ears, and giddiness of his head". The young soldier would not eat, and he got weaker until the nurse happened to discuss his hometown with him. Hamilton noted that the topic of home seemed to cheer the soldier's spirits; after Hamilton told the young recruit that he could return home, he began eating again and his strength returned. By the 1850s, nostalgia was losing its status as a disease and coming to be seen as a symptom or stage of a pathological process. It was considered as a form of melancholia and a predisposing condition among suicides. By the 1870s, interest in nostalgia as a medical category had all but vanished.
Swiss nostalgia was linked to the singing of Kuhreihen
, which were forbidden to Swiss mercenaries because they lead to nostalgia
to the point of desertion, illness or death. The 1767 Dictionnaire de Musique
by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
claims that Swiss mercenaries were threatened with severe punishment to prevent them from singing their Swiss songs. It became somewhat of a topos
in Romantic literature, and figures in the poem Der Schweizer
by Achim von Arnim
(1805) and in Clemens Brentano
's Des Knaben Wunderhorn
(1809) as well as in the opera Le Chalet
by Adolphe Charles Adam
(1834) which was performed for Queen Victoria
under the title The Swiss Cottage
. The Romantic connection of nostalgia
, the Kuhreihen
and the Swiss Alps
was a significant factor in the enthusiasm for Switzerland, the development of early tourism in Switzerland
that took hold of the European cultural elite in the 19th century. German Romanticism coined an opposite to Heimweh
"far-sickness", "longing to be far away", like Wanderlust
expressing the Romantic desire to travel and explore.
- Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia (NY: Basic Books, 2001)
- Boulbry, Gaëlle and Borges, Adilson. Évaluation d’une échelle anglo-saxonne de mesure du tempérament nostalgique dans un contexte culturel français (Evaluation of an anglo-saxon scale of measurement of nostalgic mood in a French cultural context)
- Simon Bunke: Heimweh. In: Bettina von Jagow / Florian Steger (Eds.): Literatur und Medizin im europäischen Kontext. Ein Lexikon. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 2005. Sp. 380-384.
- Coromines i Vigneaux, Joan Diccionari etimològic i complementari de la llengua catalana [Barcelona, Curial Edicions Catalanes, 1983]
- Davis, Fred Yearning for Yesterday: a Sociology of Nostalgia. New York: Free Press, 1979.
- Hofer, Johannes, "Medical Dissertation on Nostalgia." Bulletin of The Institute of the History of Medicine. Trans. Carolyn Kiser Anspach 2.6 ((1688) Aug. 1934): 376-91.
- Hunter, Richard and Macalpine, Ida. Three Hundred Years of Psychiatry:1535–1860, [Hartsdale, NY, Carlisle Publishing, Inc, 1982]
- Hutcheon, Linda "Irony, Nostalgia, and the Postmodern"
- Jameson, Fredric "Nostalgia for the Present." The South Atlantic Quarterly, 88.2 (1989): 527. 60.
- Goodman's http://www.lclark.edu/~jgoodman/webpage%20ULTIMATE/Index.htm
- Thurber, Christopher A. and Marian D. Sigman, "Preliminary Models of Risk and Protective Factors for Childhood Homesickness: Review and Empirical Synthesis." Child Development 69:4 (Aug. 1998): 903-34.
- Dylan Trigg, The Aesthetics of Decay: Nothingness, Nostalgia, and the Absence of Reason (New York: Peter Lang, 2006)
- Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia (New York: Basic Books, 2002)
- Nostalgia cartoons from 70's and 80's (in Polish)
- Linda M. Austin, 'Emily Bronte's Homesickness', Victorian Studies, 44:4 (summer 2002): 573-596.
- "The Memory of McGuffey" - Nostalgia for the McGuffey Readers
- Simon Bunke: Heimwehforschung.de