Weltschmerz


1: mental depression or apathy caused by comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state
2: a mood of sentimental sadness
The word “weltschmerz” initially came into being as a by-product of the Romanticism movement in Europe of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The poets of the Romantic era were a notably gloomy bunch, unwilling or unable to adjust to those realities of the world that they perceived as threatening their right to personal freedom. “Weltschmerz,” which was formed by combining the German words for “world” (“Welt”) and “pain” (“Schmerz”), aptly captures the melancholy and pessimism that often characterized the artistic expressions of the era. The term was coined in German by the Romantic author Jean Paul (pseudonym of Johann Paul Friedrich Richter) in his 1827 novel Selina, but it wasn’t adopted into English until the 1860s.
Weltschmerz, ( German: “world grief”) the prevailing mood of melancholy and pessimism associated with the poets of the Romantic era that arose from their refusal or inability to adjust to those realities of the world that they saw as destructive of their right to subjectivity and personal freedom—a phenomenon thought to typify Romanticism. The word was coined by Jean Paul in his pessimistic novel, Selina (1827), to describe Lord Byron’s discontent (especially as shown inManfred and Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage). Weltschmerz was characterized by a nihilistic loathing for the world and a view that was skeptically blasé.

Weltschmerz (from the German, meaning world-pain or world-wearinesspronounced [ˈvɛltʃmɛɐ̯ts]) is a term coined by the German author Jean Paul and denotes the kind of feeling experienced by someone who understands that physical reality can never satisfy the demands of the mind. This kind of pessimisticworld view was widespread among several romantic authors such as Lord ByronGiacomo LeopardiFrançois-René de ChateaubriandAlfred de Musset,Nikolaus LenauHermann Hesse, and Heinrich Heine. It is also used to denote the feeling of sadness when thinking about the evils of the world—compareempathytheodicy.

The modern meaning of Weltschmerz in the German language is the psychological pain caused by sadness that can occur when realizing that someone’s own weaknesses are caused by the inappropriateness and cruelty of the world and (physical and social) circumstances. Weltschmerz in this meaning can cause depressionresignation and escapism, and can become a mental problem (compare to Hikikomori). The modern meaning should also be compared with the concept of anomie, or a kind of alienation, that Émile Durkheim wrote about in his sociological treatise SuicideJohn Steinbeck wrote about this feeling in The Winter of Our Discontent and referred to it as the Welshrats; and in East of Eden, it is felt by Samuel Hamilton after meeting Cathy Trask for the first time. Ralph Ellison uses the term in Invisible Man with regard to the pathos inherent in the singing of spirituals: “…beneath the swiftness of the hot tempo there was a slower tempo and a cave and I entered it and looked around and heard an old woman singing a spiritual as full of Weltschmerz as flamenco.” In music, pseudo-Weltschmerz, and especially dark “romanticism,” play an important part in Gothic rockKurt Vonnegut references this feeling in his novel Player Piano; it is felt by Doctor Paul Proteus and his father.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weltschmerz

 

 

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