Some interesting views on nostalgia in this post on Robert Hughes. And the two passages from Hughes are wonderful, the first haunting, the second begging the question, how quickly does valuing solitude lead one into (too) actively engaging nostalgia, to the point that that opportunity for nostalgic reverie and active recollection becomes the main value of one’s solitude in the first place?

To move away from engaging nostalgia is an important part of the ars oblivionis, of course, but the threat of a double-loss must be considered. For in such a move not only is one cutting ties with those indeterminate objects of loss envisioned and mourned sweetly, but one is disavowing a certain level of reverie and melancholic perspective as sources of creativity. Overcoming that potential double-loss is one of the challenges, then, in turning difficultly to forgetting rather than so easily to nostalgia and memory.

I cannot help but think there are degrees of defeat at work, however: forgetting as the defeat of the writer’s expected turn to memory as well as the defeat of the nostalgic’s desire for mythic return, and at the same time, the defeat of one’s belief in and capability of worthwhile recollection. Nostalgia can be self-defeatist, without a doubt, but does not the forgetting involved in embracing the fact that there really is no possibility of return – not even artistically – signify a far more serious kind of defeat? And in that case, how can the art of forgetting overcome its own contradiction in terms?

I must revisit Svetlana Boym’s fantastic book, The Future of Nostalgia.


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