Of Monuments and Ruins

by Travis Scholl

I was recently reminded that the word nostalgia has Greek roots: nostos for home and algia (from algos) for pain, longing, loss. But the Greek roots are not ancient. The word was invented by a Swiss medical student named Johannes Hofer in the dissertation he completed in 1688. Thus, nostalgia is distinctively modern in a way that is meant to feel, ironically enough, nostalgically ancient. In her landmark study The Future of Nostalgia, the late literary scholar Svetlana Boym distinguished between what she called “restorative” and “reflective” nostalgia. In her own words:

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