In Black Sun: Depression and Melancholia (1989), Julia Kristeva suggests that melancholy – an experience of ‘object loss’ (effectively, when a sign fails to correspond to its meaning, as established by Freud) – is a language which requires learning in order for this state ofbeing (or ‘nonbeing’) to be understood. Melancholy affect, Kristeva argues, can thus be transposed into art where the ‘symbolic’ is represented through the ‘sign’; she states: ‘Artifice, as sublime meaning for and on behalf of the underlying, implicit nonbeing replaces the ephemeral’ (Kristeva 1989: 99). In other words, in the experience of ‘object loss’ we look toward the imagination and the construction of signs to fill the void and make meaning – absence evoked by a presence. Accepting these ideas, this paper explores the paradoxical nature of narrative writing (via poetry by Keats, memoir by Malouf, and fiction by Banville) as a process which not only removes the melancholic from the object of their experience, but constructs a container for the melancholy object, to which the writer is inherently bound.
TEXT: Journal of Writing and Writing Courses / Vol. 35, Special Issue, pp.1-12