Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


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Melancholy in literature; English literature; Spanish literature; Enlightenment; Melancholy--Sex differences;


The modern definition of melancholy is an “ill-temper, sullenness, brooding, anger” (Oxford English Dictionary) and it can be identified as a symptom of depression. Our view of melancholy may be clinical, but during the 18th and 19th centuries, the word’s meaning changed fast within England and Spain. The cultural shift that followed this transformation rippled throughout Europe among circles of writers, actors, and artists. England and Spain used this changing definition of melancholy in distinct ways. Promoting social change, bolstering their political agenda, and exploring individual expression, English Romantic writers used melancholy to signify genius. Both English and Spanish authors used their work for individual expression and to give voice to their discontent with their governments. They showed their distaste for Napoleon’s Enlightenment ideals introduced during his invasion of the country after the Peninsular War in 1808-1814. I explore several sides of melancholy with the goal of understanding its permeation within Romantic works and the context of its contribution to social change. Chapter 1 explores the historical portrayal of melancholy in England and Spain; namely its involvement with issues of mental, emotional, physical illness, madness, and religion. Chapter 2 discusses the redefining of melancholy in England and Spain and each country’s reaction to its evolution. This chapter reviews the effects of melancholy in Romantic works and how they contributed to anti-Enlightenment ideals and Spanish nationalism. I discuss English melancholy as a tool to raise reform awareness towards individualism and humanistic expression. Chapter 3 discusses the female perspective on melancholy and its cultural implications as it differs from the male perspective.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of Languages and Literatures

First Advisor

Jolene Zigarovich, Chair

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (v, 61 pages)



File Format


Off-Campus Download