The XIXth Century Depiction of Mental Illness

In other words kierkegaard may suggest that the doubt

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sale” not only of commercial goods, but also of “ideas” (Kierkegaard 3). In other words, Kierkegaard may suggest that the doubt expressed by “[his industrious] age” follows from superficial understandings of superficial philosophies. This degraded form of philosophy in an industrializing society leads man away from an “incorruptibly [un]selfish” understanding of doubt, like that possessed by the “venerable” Descartes (3). The industrialization of 19 th century Europe robbed it inhabitants from the opportunity to follow “[faith] for a whole lifetime,” a standard practice in Kierkegaard’s “old days” (5). Although Kierkegaard recognizes the importance of this faith, and must realize the suffering of industrializing man’s loss, he condones complacency, commonly associated with Romanticism: “It is human enough to complain, human to weep…but it’s greater to have faith and more blessed to behold the believer” (17).
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Kierkegaard would likely respond to Pechorin’s self-acclaimed “crushed ambition” with little sympathy (Lermontov 107). The former initiates the progressive movement away from Romanticism’s complacency relative to inner state because complacency solves no problems: “Had Abraham not had faith, then Sarah would surely have died of sorrow, and Abraham, dull with grief, instead of the fulfillment would have smiled at it as at a youthful dream” (18). If Abraham had submitted to complacency, he would never have born a child with his wife. Kierkegaard seems to suggest that Romanticism’s depiction of mental illness as ambivalence towards Mother Nature is displaced; he believes complacency itself can offset “the balance of doubt in the face of [hardship]” (5).According to Kierkegaard this complacency stems from the morals of an industrial age that replaces faith with “dirt cheap” alternatives (3). Although associated with Hegelianism, Marx coincides with Kierkegaard in his removal of modern complacency. According to Marx, the source of mental ailment, “everlasting uncertainty, and agitation” undoubtedly lies in the bourgeoisie of industrializing society: “The modern laborer…instead of rising with the progress of industry, sinks deeper below the existence of his own class. He becomes a pauper, and pauperism develops more rapidly than population and wealth” (Marx 79-80).
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The captains of industry strip the proletariat of human dignity and drive him to unsustainable conditions. Dehumanized by the bourgeoisie and overwhelmed with its demands, the proletariat moves to action. Rather than a reversion to complacency, the proletariat rises to an “inevitable” revolution (80). Chronologically after Kierkegaard and Marx, Baudelaire and his Spleen of Paris , are out of order in the progression of Realism away Romanticism’s complacency and theory of mental illness. “The Double Room” may represent Baudelaire’s cry for help as he attempts to reconcile his Romantic image of the world with the emergence of its exact opposite. Struggling with the horrors of reality, Baudelaire self-prescribes a “vial of laudanum” to escape “Memories, Regrets, Spams, Fears, Anxieties, Nightmares, Anger, and Neuroses” that accompany the instability of industrialization (123). Edgar Degas
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captures Baudelaire’s inner ambivalence in his painting of The Absinthe Drinker .
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