Abstract: This article examines the value that Burton not only attributes to study as a cure for melancholy but also induces by prescription. Burton’s seemingly superficial style of survey in The Anatomy of Melancholy models an alternative to those grave and ruminating modes of inquiry that Burton deems to be dangerous for the melancholically inclined, instead offering his reader a program for the allegrification of the spirits through the evocation of therapeutic wonder. I argue that Burton dispenses his study cure by appealing directly to the transformative powers of the imagination as they were understood by Renaissance Neoplatonists and rhetorical theorists whose influences are traced in part 1. Part 2 attends to the complex ironies of Burton’s juxtaposed accounts of the institutional causes of scholarly melancholy and the restorative effects of delightful study. Part 3 explores the ways that Burton’s descriptions of the inexhaustible variety of wonder to be found in studies yet to come and authors yet to be studied induce a sense of futurity and community that militates against the comorbid experiences of alienation and despair to which the melancholic scholar is prone.
Studies in Philology – University of North Carolina Press
Published: Jul 3, 2014