Labor and Lamentation: A Philosophical Genealogy of Acedia, Subjective Labor, and Depressed Mood


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


History of Consciousness


This dissertation examines the relationship between two phenomena characteristic of contemporary economic and social life in the US and Western Europe: the increasing importance of symbolic and emotional forms of labor and the emergence of mood disorders, especially depression, as a paradigmatic modern issue. It excavates a genealogy of this relationship, from medieval acedia (a condition uniting inability to work with dejected affective states), to the classic “high capitalist” division between these arenas (seen in an inward notion of melancholia, sloth, the Protestant ethic, and industrial time/work/discipline), to the modern day. This relationship constitutes a current problematic, though our disciplinary frameworks still treat mood and work as separate arenas of human experience.