The Anatomy of Melancholy

michelle-leona godin @ the beezy douglas carnivale, spring 2010

I’m an artist and academic, whose accomplishments include getting my PhD in English Literature from NYU and not yet ending up in a pool of my own toxic waste… 

Robert Burton the black humored author of The Anatomy of Melancholy wrote in his preface to the reader: “I write of melancholy, by being busy to avoid melancholy.”  This apparently worked just fine until the enormous volume was finished and the sad scholar, bereft of work, hung himself in his Oxford rooms.  Although this last has not been confirmed by history, I’m not alone in thinking it makes a nice story and accept it as a fact of art  from a world that relates only tangentially to literal facts; an artifact from  a world where facts are the stuff of the imagination and inner eye and not the outer one and reason.

So that’s it.  this website is my Anatomy and I’m hopeful, since I don’t have to worry about publishing, or rather can constantly publish, that I likewise don’t have to worry about finishing, and can remain always and forever in the state of avoiding. 

But what are you avoiding?

Well, like my black biled brother Burton, I’m attempting to avoid the often romanticized and, if Prozac & other anti-depressants are any indication, just as often reviled stuff of the blues.  But also I’m attempting to stave off the rigor mortis associated with death, adulthood and a general fear that there is nothing more to learn and nothing more to do about the current sack of corpus you inhabit.  To stave off, in fact, the facts of life and death.  Because what better way than making art?  Art defies such molds and molderings.

So, that’s it about me.  I’m just like all the rest: making art in order to avoid annihilation!

3 thoughts on “The Anatomy of Melancholy”

  1. I have to disagree with alabaster rhumb.

    I believe art can be made out of an over-fullness of life, or joy – or out of an impoverishment of life. One can create because one has the strength to squander one’s energies, and one wants to capture and deify existence; or one can create out of need, out of a desire for catharsis, recognition, or validation.

    Perhaps one wants to mirror the world of becoming, of flux and fire, as Heraclitus said; or perhaps one wants to mirror a world of being, betraying a desire to immortalize one way of envisioning the world – the way of stabilizing the world so one has a sense of unity, certainty, and trust in life.

    Though I don’t believe in any gods, you could say that art is a sort of god-play, a way of discharging the divine strengths and energies of an over-flowing life, a desire to bestow upon nature and life one’s admiration and affirmation – i.e., one’s love, simply because one can…


  2. Gotta go with Juno on this one.
    I receive joy through creation. Not the only reason I do it, but I certainly wouldn’t create if I didn’t get some kind of joy out of it.
    If that makes me a poser, I can only say that I’m the HAPPIEST poser that has ever lived! I live off my art and love the life I live doing it. If that makes me a poser, so be it; I’d still rather be me.

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