A Biography of Loneliness: The History of an Emotion (Paperback)
  • A Biography of Loneliness: The History of an Emotion (Paperback)
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A Biography of Loneliness: The History of an Emotion (Paperback)

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£14.99
Paperback 320 Pages
Published: 14/01/2021
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'A compassionate, wide-ranging study.'

Terry Eagleton, The Guardian

Despite 21st-century fears of a modern 'epidemic' of loneliness, its history has been sorely neglected.

A Biography of Loneliness is the first history of its kind to be published in English, offering a radically new interpretation of loneliness as an emotional language and experience. Using letters and diaries, philosophical tracts, political discussions, and medical literature from the eighteenth century to the present, historian of the emotions Fay Bound Alberti argues that loneliness is not an ahistorical, universal phenomenon. It is, in fact, a modern emotion: before 1800, its language did not exist.

As Alberti shows, the birth of loneliness is linked to the development of modernity: the all-encompassing ideology of the individual that has emerged in the mind and physical sciences, in economic structures, in philosophy and politics. While it has a biography of its own, loneliness impacts on people differently, according to their gender, ethnicity, religion, outlook, and socio-economic position. It is, Alberti argues, not a single state but an 'emotion cluster', composed of a wide variety of responses that include fear, anger, resentment and sorrow. In spite of this, loneliness is not always negative. And it is physical as well as psychological: loneliness is a product of the body as much as the mind.

Looking at informative case studies such as Sylvia Plath, Queen Victoria, and Virginia Woolf, A Biography of Loneliness charts the emergence of loneliness as a modern emotional state. From social media addiction to widowhood, from homelessness to the oldest old, from mall hauls to massages, loneliness appears in all aspects of 21st-century life. Yet we cannot address its meanings, let alone formulate a cure, without attention to its complex, protean history.

Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 9780198811350
Number of pages: 320
Weight: 322 g
Dimensions: 216 x 135 x 25 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

In addition to Alberti's sharp political analysis, one of the most powerful themes in her book is how varied loneliness is, how embedded it is in our lives, how extensively it evades generalisation. Maybe loneliness is a 21st-century epidemic, a modern illness requiring an urgent response, but its also so much more than that. - Sophie McBain, The New Statesman

Alberti conveys the ambivalence of loneliness as we now conceive of it, its mingling of horror and desirability in a machine age. - Jane O'Grady, Literary Review

A wonderful biography of loneliness by a brilliant socio-cultural historian. - James Daybell, Histories of the Unexpected

Beginning with the intriguing argument that loneliness is a modern emotional phenomenon, Fay Bound Alberti traces many facets and factors leading up to the current loneliness dilemma. The book contributes both to several facets in the history of emotion over the past two centuries, and to a humane understanding of the issues and possibilities involved today. - Dr Peter Stearns, George Mason University

This fascinating book explores an increasingly central experience in our society-loneliness. Bound Alberti does a wonderful job of explaining where do all lonely people come from, and where do they all belong. The nuanced picture she draws has real potential to help us better understand, cope with, and reduce the most significant epidemic of our time. The author makes a particularly valuable distinction between fleeting and chronic loneliness. While fleeting loneliness can boost creativity and enhance emotional and spiritual clarity, chronic lonelinesswhich involves an existential sense of meaningless lackis devastatingly destructive. I highly recommend this important book for all readers. - Aaron Ben-Ze'ev, author of The Arc of Love

Why is loneliness such a major concern in western societies? In this thoughtful, thought-provoking book Fay Bound Alberti traces modern loneliness from its nineteenth-century cultural and demographic origins to its latest incarnation as a health emergency, a scourge of western society. Exploring diverse experiences of loneliness - from William Wordsworths famous lonely as a cloud to Sylvia Plaths desperate description of it as a disease of the blood - Bound Alberti provides a compelling account of the causes and consequences of loneliness in an age when community solidarities are at a premium. - Barbara Taylor, Professor of Humanities at Queen Mary University of London; principal investigator on Wellcome Trust funded project, 'Pathologies of Solitude, 18th-21st Century'

A compassionate, wide-ranging study. - Terry Eagleton, The Guardian

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