Thomas Dodman - "What Nostalgia Was"

Tuesday, February 27, 2018 - 6:00pm - 7:30pm
Event Presenter/Author: 
Thomas Dodman
“What Nostalgia Was is by far the most thorough and interesting investigation ever written into how physicians and others came to define a disease they labeled ‘nostalgia’ and how the phenomenon evolved over the two centuries from 1688 to 1884. Remarkably creative and original, this book has significant implications for how we understand the history of the emotions, the history of psychiatry, and the history of modern European society.”-- David A. Bell, Princeton University
“What Nostalgia Was is undoubtedly the best of the new wave of nostalgia studies. Dodman recounts the history of nostalgia in richly contextualized detail with thorough research and thoughtful, persuasive interpretations. This book is an impressive achievement.”-- Mark Micale, University of Illinois
Thomas Dodman discusses What Nostalgia Was: War, Empire, and the Time of a Deadly Emotion
At the Co-op
RSVP HERE (Please not that your RSVP is requested, not required)
About the book: Nostalgia today is seen as essentially benign, a wistful longing for the past. This wasn't always the case, however: from the late seventeenth century through the end of the nineteenth, nostalgia denoted a form of homesickness so extreme that it could sometimes be deadly.

What Nostalgia Was unearths that history. Thomas Dodman begins his story in Basel, where a nineteen-year-old medical student invented the new diagnosis, modeled on prevailing notions of melancholy. From there, Dodman traces its spread through the European republic of letters and into Napoleon's armies, as French soldiers far from home were diagnosed and treated for the disease. Nostalgia then gradually transformed from a medical term to a more expansive cultural concept, one that encompassed Romantic notions of the aesthetic pleasure of suffering. But the decisive shift toward its contemporary meaning occurred in the colonies, where Frenchmen worried about racial and cultural mixing came to view moderate homesickness as salutary. An afterword reflects on how the history of nostalgia can help us understand the transformations of the modern world, rounding out a surprising, fascinating tour through the history of a durable idea.

About the author: Thomas Dodman is Assistant Professor in the Department of French and the College at Columbia University. He is the author of What Nostalgia Was: War, Empire and the Time of a Deadly Emotion (Chicago, 2018) and is currently co-editing a global history of war for the Éditions du Seuil. A cultural and intellectual historian of modern France, Dr. Dodman received his PhD from the University of Chicago and was a Mellon Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He previously taught at Boston College and currently serves as associate editor for Emotion Review.
Event Location: 
The Seminary Co-op Bookstore
5751 S. Woodlawn Ave.
Chicago, IL 60637