The Anatomy of Melancholy: A Selection by Robert Burton

He gives a certain structure to melancholy that reading the book will make clear to readers about the complexity of this emotion which like several other emotions is highly over powering and painful.

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Title: The Anatomy of Melancholy: A Selection

Author: Robert Burton

Publisher: Carcanet Press Ltd.

Date of Publication: 1 February 2004

Rating: 3/5

anatomy

As the very title alludes, The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton is a dissection of melancholy from every angle possible. What is interesting is how he performs this feat. He breaks down melancholy to its base elements and presents an unparalleled picture before the readers of an emotion that is oft so felt yet never easy to talk about.

Like a physician, Burton goes to the very core to deal with causes and concerns of possible solutions. None of the opinions are exactly his own. He takes a lot of material from other renowned and not so popular sources. He then builds on that by adding his thoughts. He gives a certain structure to melancholy that reading the book will make clear to readers about the complexity of this emotion which like several other emotions is highly over powering and painful. Burton understands very well how sorrow affects the heart, mind or soul and may cause complete loss of functionality. He constantly mentions philosophies of various eras. There is a lot of allusion to Greek, Roman and Latin mythological characters whose attributes are not always elaborated.

The Anatomy of Melancholy mainly comprises of short essays. Burton’s writing style is free flowing in a very classical sense. The modern reader’s mind will require a lot of effort to adapt to it. However, the essays are easier than Bacon. They are neither pithy nor terse. They provide a lot of examples but don’t always broaden them. Some lines are catchy and humorous. The humour is not grim or tedious. Despite it all, it is not an ideal book for beginners. It is definitely not a book to read on a weekend trip. It calls for a lot of attention and pre-requisite knowledge especially in European Classics. Nonetheless, it deals with pertinent issues and provides insightful views on melancholy which is an emotion everyone deals with on a daily basis. It can be easily said that Burton’s originality in assembling notions for a unique presentation and quality research is unbeatable.

Although intended as a self help manual, it will be wrong to say that it serves its purpose completely in the present times as it is extremely difficult to get through the book which is overflowing with didacticism and wisdom. It is a daring act to read the book in the original so an abridged version is suitable for a start though the book is best avoided unless one is compelled to read it as a part of coursework.

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Despite its title, the text presents strategy which will be applicable in public administration and planning of modern Althusserian State apparatuses. Most theories of battle advocate diplomacy and cultivation of good relationship with other nations and their leaders.

Title: The Art of War

Author: Sun Tzu

Translator: Thomas Cleary

Publisher: Fingerprint Classics

Date of Publication: First published in 5th Century

Genre: Classics

Rating: 4/5

 

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Words of wisdom straight from the horse’s mouth.

Originally written with ink on bamboo in circa 500 B.C., The Art of War by Tzu is of vital importance in a world of insurmountable conflict. Also known as The Thirteen Chapters, the text is laid out in 13 chapters of almost equal length. Each chapter begins with a broader title which confines straight forward postulations presented in a discrete, point wise manner. The text remains so readily comprehensible that no background to military fiction is required. A linearity of reading may be dropped to grab random points at a single go. Each point presents highly speculative sub themes requiring closer analysis. Despite its title, the text presents strategy which will be applicable in public administration and planning of modern Althusserian State apparatuses. Most theories of battle advocate diplomacy and cultivation of good relationship with other nations and their leaders. The points cover a broad sphere of planning, execution, manoeuvring and strategic tactical dispositions. Calculative speculation is considered analogous to the larger motive at hand. The text is highly didactic, argumentative and logical. Chapters of special importance include strategies of dealing with tough geographical terrain and the use of spies. With ideas such as “divine manipulation of the threads” juxtaposing “forethought”, it totally negates the notion of a Machiavellian fate working with a negative oppositional force to human endeavours. Victory is to be achieved through persistence and proper planning. Applicable at interpersonal and international levels, the text utilises the basics of human psychology to reinforce the combined impact of inner mental strength and physical endurance as the very essence of combat. The larger impression is that managerial skills can only be mastered through discipline and calm in the face of disorder. In teaching self-possession, Tzu musters the idea that the ability to utilise strengths and weaknesses of the opponent in equal proportions makes an eminent leader. Control is to be earned by clever administration, direct communication and visionary leadership.

Epigrammatic and profound.