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Pre-modern Exhaustion: On Melancholia and Acedia

Schaffner, Anna Katharina (2017) Pre-modern Exhaustion: On Melancholia and Acedia. In: Schaffner, Anna Katharina and Wagner, Greta and Neckel, Sighard, eds. Burnout, Fatigue, Exhaustion: An Interdisciplinary Perspective on a Modern Affliction. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, pp. 27-50. ISBN 978-3-319-52886-1. (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided. (Contact us about this Publication)

Abstract

Adopting a cultural-historical perspective, Anna Katharina Schaffner argues that exhaustion is not at all a modern preoccupation, nor the specific bane of our age of techno-capitalism, as many critics argue, but that anxieties about exhaustion and its psychological, physical, and social effects have always been with us. She shows that theories of exhaustion and its corrosive effects can be found in many historical periods, including Greek antiquity and the Middle Ages. The symptoms of mental and physical exhaustion were considered to be among the core symptoms of melancholia, theorised in the broader framework of humoral theory by the physician Galen. An alternative model of exhaustion emerged in Late Antiquity and blossomed in the Middle Ages: the notion of sloth, or acedia. Just like melancholia, acedia included various symptoms of mental and physical exhaustion among its core indicators, such as weariness, torpor, apathy, lethargy, sleepiness, irritability, cognitive impairment, and hopelessness. Yet unlike melancholia, which was treated and defined by physicians, sloth fell under the remit of theologians such as St Thomas Aquinas. It was understood not as an organic disease, but rather as a spiritual and moral failing.

Item Type: Book section
Uncontrolled keywords: melancholia, acedia, exhaustion, burnout
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
C Auxiliary Sciences of History
R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of European Culture and Languages > Comparative Literature
Depositing User: Anna Katharina Schaffner
Date Deposited: 06 Dec 2016 13:00 UTC
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 18:25 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/59469 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Schaffner, Anna Katharina: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7097-2145
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