Exploring melancholy (place to place)
, MPhil thesis, The University of Salford.
This study presented here is built on practice-based research into photographic images of melancholic landscapes. According to Stedman et al. (2004), few photographers are interested in examining the different meanings of the settings in their work. This wider field of research will address how setting effects meaning in my work. The aim of this research is to explore the idea of melancholy through the study and practice of landscape photographic imagery. Moreover, sometimes melancholy may be understood in relation to unhappiness and pain; nevertheless, it usually accompanies happiness. The photographs will be shaped by the viewpoint of the researcher and the influence of ideas about, for example, melancholy, the Sublime and nostalgia. Those kinds of emotions, which are rarely similar to unhappiness, nonetheless are more advanced and refer to some level of enjoyment. In addition, on this level of melancholy, positive motivation and pleasure will be more deliberate. This study is limited to a certain cultural, historical context, especially with regard to particular fine artists and poets, and also my emotional response, as a self-reflexive person, to the body of work that I have produced in the content of my findings regarding the concept of melancholy. This study adopts an innovative approach to the historical and aesthetic language of melancholy. In terms of symbols, cultural knowledge in relation to the meaning of melancholy in both Iran and the UK is reflected. Theoretical and practical perspectives are introduced, in order to gain an understanding of the way in which the language of images and culture is similarly or differently implied. The range covers the provision of previous historical contexts, myths, poems and paintings.
In practice, photographs are considered to be witnesses that offer descriptive evidence and ultimately are based on my opinion and my understanding of melancholy and to some extent the Sublime and nostalgia. In my literature review, I focus on definitions of melancholy, nostalgia and the Sublime and their relationships to each other, according to theorists such as Brady and Haapala (2003), Burton (1676), Cassagnere (2006), Soufas (1993), Rubenstein (2001), Sedikides et al. (2008), Wells (2000, 2011), Riding (2010), Meredith (1987), Kant (1790), Holly (2007), Sontag (1979, 2003), Kristeva (1980, 1989), Berger (1972), Barthes (1957, 1970, 1972), Ashfield and de Bolla (1996) and Duffy and Howell (2011). Hence, I reviewed some historical texts, with regards to poets such as Khayyam (1120 A.C.E), Saadi (1258), Wordsworth (1793, 1798, 1833, 1800) and Keats (1817, 1820), and art works such as the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich (1821, 1920), John Constable (1810, 1821), and J.M.W. Turner (1832, 1835, 1838).
As for the methodology, this study is based on photography and paintings. The method I have used is qualitative; the nature of my approach is A/r/tography, which for Sullivan (2010: 59) is “a creation of new relationships among theories, ideas, forms, and contexts as assumptions about concepts, and categories that tend to fix meanings are brought into question”. In relation to my research practice, based on A/r/tography, some ideas about melancholy by artists should be considered, as well as theoretical understandings and their practical work through melancholic arts. Consequently, I have decided to write in the first person, an active voice, in order to communicate self-awareness. For this purpose, I have also decided to integrate self-evaluation and self-reflection into this research. On the whole, melancholy is recognised as an action of love by Sufism, in Eastern countries, whereas it can be understood as a feeling of love and misery according to some philosophical theories in Western culture. It can be concluded that melancholy in Persian culture contains more happiness than that in Western culture. In addition, a book of 84 landscape photographic images, and writing in the region of 20,000 words, with a 70/30 split and balance, have been submitted.
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