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The New Black

Mourning, Melancholia, and Depression
Darian Leader
Fifty years ago, the terms mourning and melancholia were part of the psychological lexicon. Today, in a world of rapid diagnoses, quick cures, and big pharmaceutical dollars, the catch-all concept of depression has evolved to take their place. In The New Black, Darian Leader argues that this shift is more than semantic; rather, it speaks to our culture’s complicated relationship with loss, suffering, and grief.

Part memoir, part cultural analysis, Leader draws on examples from literature, art, cinema, and history, as well as case studies from his work as a psychologist, to explore the unconscious ways our culture responds to the experience of loss. He visits a bookstore in search of studies on mourning, and, finding none, moves on to the fiction and poetry sections, where he finds countless examples of mourning in literature. Moving from historical texts of the Middle Ages, to Freud’s essays, to Lacan, to Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, Leader provides an innovative tour of mourning and melancholia and our culture’s struggle to understand them.

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"An engrossing and wise book. The New Black is not only an illuminating read, it convinces us that this level of intelligence and ideas is essential today."--Hanif Kureishi


About the Author

Darian  Leader
Credit: Lucy Hayward
Darian Leader is a psychoanalyst practicing in London. His books include New Black, Why Do Women Write More Letters Than They Post?, Stealing the Mona Lisa, and Why Do People Get Ill?, coauthored with David Corfield.
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  • “[Darian Leader] presents a thorough and thoughtful review of what happens when the work of mourning (‘detaching ourselves from the loved ones we have lost’) or melancholia (where what is lost is not so obvious to the patient) goes undone….Leader manages to bring not just a fresh look at Freud and grieving but adds rich context from his own case studies and the culture around us, from John Cleese’s hilarious eulogy for his Monty Python colleague Graham Chapman to Brokeback Mountain. It’s an astounding analysis of a pressing mental health issue that melds old and new.”—Publishers Weekly
  • “Leader makes an important diagnosis, one that could be especially useful to an America that often thinks of itself as very depressed, but may actually be extremely melancholy.”—Barnes and Noble Review
  • “A comprehensive case for reviving the Freudian concepts of mourning and melancholia. . . . The New Black is a sign—the first sparrow of spring—that a less dogmatic, more diverse understanding of mental health is on its way.”—Zócalo Public Square
  • “An engrossing and wise book, The New Black is not only an illuminating read, it convinces us that this level of intelligence and ideas is essential today.”—Hanif Kureishi, The New Statesman
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