The millennial “memory boom” has given rise to debate concerning the ethics of remembering the past. Much interdisciplinary theory has centred upon Freud’s seminal essay “Mourning and Melancholia” (1917), although it has tended to subvert his original binary, rejecting normative modes of mourning in favour of an ethics of melancholia. Melancholia is now frequently posited as an ethico-political mode of grief because the traumatized ego disavows loss by preserving the lost object within its psyche. This repudiation of loss is interpreted as a “will to remember” on the part of the self, reinforced as it is by the claim that melancholia preserves the alterity of the other. Yet the depathologization of melancholia relies on a necessarily partial reading of Freudian theory: it is, after all, an unconscious response to loss that entails the ego’s identification with-or as-the object. Even if we take Freud’s subsequent naturalization of melancholia in “The Ego and the Id” (1923), the unconscious relationship between ego and object still remains its core mechanism. This paper explores the vicissitudes of both mourning and melancholia as modes of remembrance, before arguing that it is germane to seek different ethical approaches to “working through” the past and its losses that attempt to move beyond the binary of mourning and melancholia.
|Keywords:||Mourning, Melancholia, Memory, Ethics, Freud, Memorialization, Working Through|
DPhil Candidate, French, Department of Medieval and Modern Languages, University of Oxford, Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK