Critical Theory

On melancholy

Department of English Assistant Professor Drew Daniel's The Melancholy Assemblage: Affect and Epistemology in the English Renaissance (Fordham University Press, 2013) is that rare critical theory book that's fun to read. Consider it a more complexly realized update of Robert Burton's 1621 book The Anatomy of Melancholy, a multidisciplinary rumination on an emotional state believed to be rooted in corporeal imbalances. Daniel treats melancholy as a Deleuzian system of interrelated ideas and, while focusing on the English Renaissance of, say, John Milton's Samson Agonistes, stretches from Galen's humoral medicine to Harry Harlow's isolation experiments with rhesus monkeys to death metal. Yes, it's academic, but Daniel refreshingly spices his arguments with artful prose and candid humor.