Nostalgia is related to feelings of loss and longing, memory and remembrance, pain and sadness. The desire to look back or return to something experienced or imagined is essential. Nostalgia is an amalgamation of two words from Greek, nostos, which means “returning home,” and algos, “pain.” Etymologically, it derives from postclassical Latin (OED). The word-concept nostalgia was first used by medical student Johannes Hofer in his Dissertatio medica de Nostalgia, oder Heimwehe (1688). This dissertation considered painful homesickness (Heimwehe) among Swiss soldiers (displaced by war) as a medical condition of such severity as to put sufferers at risk of serious illness. Hofer thus establishes nostalgia as a pathological discourse. Jean Starobinski, interpreting Hofer in the essay “The Idea of Nostalgia” (1966), states that nostalgia is linked by its roots to the trauma of deprivation and loss. Starobinski points to Kant and his observation in Anthropologie in pragmatischer Hinsicht (1798). In Starobinski’s words, “what a person wishes to recover is not so much the actual place where he passed his childhood but his youth itself” (Hodgkin 2016, 115; Starobinski 1966, 94). Time, unlike space, cannot be returned to. Nostalgia becomes the reaction to that sad fact.

This essay may be found on page 136 of the printed volume.

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