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Melancholy cosmopolitanism: reflections on a genre of European literary fiction

Ellison, Ian (2021) Melancholy cosmopolitanism: reflections on a genre of European literary fiction. History of European Ideas, 47 (6). pp. 1022-1037. ISSN 0191-6599. (doi:10.1080/01916599.2020.1857036) (KAR id:91244)


This essay considers how various European novels written and published around the turn of the millennium may be grouped together as an historically and geographically contingent literary genre, while also reflecting on the implications of this. In doing so, this essay coins the term ‘melancholy cosmopolitanism’ to best describe this genre of literary works. Ultimately, this genre suggests, first of all, that the sense of melancholy obsolescence articulated by European writers at this time is not confined to discrete national literary contexts. Moreover, this essay argues, it implies a form of solidarity among these writers and their works, such that they encapsulate the possibility of working through the melancholy of history precisely through the aesthetic similarities among their literary explorations of it. Contemporaneous melancholy works of European literature are understood here as ‘cosmopolitan’ in a hermeneutic sense: their aesthetics resonate with each other beyond discrete national literary contexts, while also exemplifying individually assumed poses of melancholy amid a broader collective. In construing European melancholy aesthetics as a form of cosmopolitanism, then, the literary genre proposed by this essay suggests that mutual articulations of melancholy in various European novels collectively embody a potential for the melancholy of history to be overcome.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1080/01916599.2020.1857036
Uncontrolled keywords: Aesthetics, comparative literature, European literature, genre, melancholy cosmopolitanism, modernity
Subjects: P Language and Literature
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Culture and Languages
Depositing User: Ian Ellison
Date Deposited: 01 Nov 2021 12:36 UTC
Last Modified: 05 Apr 2022 23:00 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Ellison, Ian.

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