Weltschmerz

weltschmerz-other-wordly

Weltschmerz (from the German, meaning world-pain or world-wearinesspronounced [ˈvɛltʃmɛɐ̯ts]) is a term coined by the German author Jean Paul Richter and denotes the kind of feeling experienced by someone who understands that physical reality can never satisfy the demands of the mind. 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). Weltschmerz was characterized by a nihilistic loathing for the world and a view that was skeptically blasé. In France, where it was called the mal du siècle by Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve in 1833, Weltschmerz was expressed by Chateaubriand, Alfred de Vigny, and Alfred de Musset; in Russia by Aleksandr Pushkin and Mikhail Lermontov; in Poland by Juliusz Słowacki; in America by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

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. Weltschmerzin this meaning can cause depression, resignation and escapism, and can become a mental problem (compare to Hikikomori). It is also used to denote the feeling of sadness when thinking about the evils of the world. 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 Suicide.

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