In Search of Nostalgia: Ruins


The ruin engages a wide spectrum of considerations: cultural, aesthetic, religious, political and psychoanalytic (to name just a few). The ruins of antiquity have, of course, always fascinated scholars and tourists. But the Romantics in particular viewed ancient ruins through the lens of nostalgia, a perspective that is not without political implications. Freud, who grew up reading the Romantics, is himself obsessed with ruins and archeology. His idea of the unconscious is heavily influenced by the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and by archeological digs. In the twentieth century, the ruins of modern warfare—particularly those of World War Two—serve to change both the status, and the meaning, of ruin-gazing.