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Depression: A Public Feeling

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  396 ratings  ·  33 reviews
In Depression: A Public Feelings Project, Ann Cvetkovich seeks to understand why intellectuals, activists, professionals, and other privileged people struggle with feelings of hopeless and self-loathing. She focuses particularly on those in academia, where the pressure to succeed and the desire to find space for creative thinking and alternative worlds bump up against the ...more
Paperback, 278 pages
Published November 5th 2012 by Duke University Press Books (first published January 1st 2012)
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A fascinating, necessary analysis and memoir about depression. Ann Cvetkovich, a professor of English and Gender Studies at the University of Texas, integrates the critical essay and memoir genres to explore her own experience with depression. She also examines why so many academics, activists, and others in positions of privilege face this onslaught of negative/debilitating feeling. From the beginning, she argues against the biomedical model of depression, while acknowledging that it may help s ...more
Quin Rich
Jul 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
I am deeply conflicted about this book. On the one hand, Cvetkovich's analysis is insightful, fulfilling, and came to me at precisely the right time in my life. On the other hand, at several points throughout the text Cvetkovich minimizes the very real world-historical force of white supremacy. Even when she directly discusses racism as a form of everyday trauma, she equates white/settle guilt with the lived and historical experiences of racism. She also basically dismisses the idea of cultural ...more
I wasn't persuaded by the memoir section of this book, but there were a handful of interesting ideas that I'll take with me. ...more
Peter Landau
Feb 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Say no to drugs, except when your depressed? I've self-medicated and I've had a doctor's hand on the mortar and pestle with equal results. And the answer, for me, is that depression is a rational response to life. It's sad, and then it's not, and then it is again. So what? Life doesn't care, and neither should you. Cvetkovich doesn't deny the dismal aspects of life nor does she dismiss the joy inherent in the living, but she, through various, mostly queer-culture examples, shows that the value o ...more
Jul 19, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
I’m going to start by saying that I was very excited to read this book, as I loved An Archive of Feeling. I used Cvetkovich’s work in my own research when I was in school. This book was ultimately a disappointment, though, and I did not finish it.

While the premise of the argument sounds great in theory, it fails in practice. This is less of a scholarly interrogation of depression under capitalism and more of a polemic against pharmaceuticals (“the demon Prozac,” pg. 59). The author’s dissatisfac
Dec 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: queer, here-or-there
A queer academic self-help book! That is what Ann Cvetkovich said she "kind of jokingly" called this project, but I think it's for real. My boss lent me this along with Lynda Barry's Cruddy and Beth Ditto's memoir, which I think make good companion pieces. By the time I was about a third of the way through, I had forcibly recommended this book to almost everyone I know, but two thirds of the way in I got completely bogged down. Maybe that's fitting? ...more
I was more invested in this book for its connections between political feelings, memoir/description, and the somatic/affective experience of depression that I was for the extended dives into literary and historical analyses of works (mainly literature and art) about depression. I found the etymological genealogies a lot more interesting than I was expecting-- really made me stop and think about how taken-for-granted ideas and even specific words are to me, when it comes to depression. For instan ...more
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
So, so, SO GOOD. This books look at depression's dual nature as both cultural/social and deeply personal and resists the desire to concoct narratives about depression that try to pathologize it. The book's genre switches between personal memoir, self-help, and cultural criticism in a way that is refreshing for academic scholarship. ...more
Mynt Marsellus
Feb 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
While I was certainly left wanting more explanation of those things that I feel all the time, what this book leaves me with is the hope of living an ordinary life.
Duke Press
“Cvetkovich offers us an introduction to thinking critically about depression's causes and its manifestations as well as, perhaps, the localised tactics that are necessary to enable recovery. At the end, she turns rather sweetly to crafting as one reparative habit, partly because of the aesthetic of connectivity that it can stimulate. Knitting yourself out of depression: it's kind of folksy, but I liked it.”--Sally Munt, Times Higher Education

“At one end, Depression is a call to expand how we f
Jun 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"My contribution to this discussion is to insist that daily life in all its ordinariness can be a basis for the utopian project of building new worlds in response to both spiritual despair and political depression. As forms of practice, rituals such as crafting, knitting, and other hobbies, as well as yoga, running, and other forms of exercise, belong to what I want to call a utopia of ordinary habit. . . . The utopia of ordinary habit would be aversion of Avery Gordon's "usable utopia", a utopi ...more
Magdalena O!
Sep 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Cvetkovich experiments with writing form and includes a memoir in the first section of the book in which she details the last years of her PhD and the first years of her working. She de-pathologizes depression (which she also names bad feelings for its banal connotations), and instead, demonstrates the ways in which it can open up new forms of sociality and serve as foundations for new forms of attachment. She later makes these claims theoretically (is this a kind of grounded theory? j/k!) For h ...more
Melodie Roschman
Aug 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
I want to give this five stars, but the one nagging issue with this book for me is Cvetkovich's treatment of medication and taking it for depression. I really appreciate this book's insistence that a lot of depression is societally motivated and then coping with mental health struggles, sadness, and despair requires a holistic approach that can include good habits, meditation, the body, and sociality, but I think that it is often dismissive and condescending towards people that use medication, a ...more
Aug 15, 2012 added it
Shelves: firstreads
I received this book as part of a Goodreads giveaway. Review will follow.
Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
With the exception perhaps of some of The Depression Journals and some of the chapter on acedia, I adore this book. It nails precisely how my misgivings with David Burns evolved since my quasi-popular review of Feeling Good was posted. It elucidates ways in which I square my sympathies with Buddhism, mindfulness, and varying degrees of spirituality with a firmly-held allegiance to godlessness. It better addresses how and why I feel my depression to be 'queerer', in a sense, than the ones ascribe ...more
Sep 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: academic-reads
This was such an intriguing and awesome read. Whilst I spent most of my time highlighting ideas, I still found Cvetkovich’s writing to be smoothly fluid. This book has definitely helped me concrete some ideas (such as the war on worries and political depression) that was opened doors for my thinking of depression in a totally different way. The idea of ethnography through memoir, as well as other forms of creative expression, is another theme I will be able to incorporate into my future work.
Jan 15, 2021 rated it liked it
Valuable ideas for approaching depression from a new lens, but as other reviewers have also pointed out, she elects to gloss over some thorny issues in relation to colonialism (it causes settler-guilt which has effects similar to racism??) and new-age spirituality (it helps so its not appropriation???). That said, I still found aspects of this book to be incredibly helpful and interesting.
May 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
rich, provocative, and complex. Even Cvetkovich is uncertain about publishing her depression journals, but doing so within a larger book of theory and analysis is kind of fun and daring, at least for an academic.
daniel dillon
Apr 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The memoir of Part 1 was deeply affecting, as I find myself poised at the very career juncture that starts the whole thing. But the essay(s) of Part 2 were no less potently insightful, and have given me some clarity on parts of my own research.
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
some great quotes, anecdotes, and ideas, disappointing delivery from a woman whose white, middle-class identity dominates the way she thinks, writes, and makes judgements.
Mar 31, 2020 rated it liked it
very refreshing to think about depression not as an individual problem or failure, but as a shared, public and relational phenomenon.
Christina Cathcart
Jun 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The ebb and flow of depression is personal, but in my experience, the crash is often directly proportional to the level of anxiety reached. The author finds her manic episodes to be the energy boost she needs to complete her projects, yet spends little time discussing the fallout from living an unbalanced life.

Much of the book is a memoir of sorts. The last chapters cover queer feminist art that center on making the personal political. Worth a read if you find yourself inspired by such things t
Jan 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
I mostly liked this book. She’s making an effort to bring politics more deeply into the the discussion of depression. Not all of it works. There are parts where the connection to depression is tenuous. She also joins too many in posing an either-or between politics and medicine.
Steven Winkelman
Apr 02, 2014 rated it it was ok
Very poorly executed and sloppy. If you're looking for this type of text, try Lauren Berlant. The author spends the first section talking about the dangers of anti-depressants and then begins he own journal in the second. In the final section she admits she took anti-depressants throughout the entire process of the book. The writing meanders and veers off topic frequently. Sentences are flat and the this is another text that needed serious editing before it went to publication. ...more
John Antoniello
Apr 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Half memoir, half critical essay, this book weaves together anecdote, medical history, race politics, high + low art, feminist + queer theory, and spirituality to create a surprisingly approachable and useful guide for reframing how we think about depression. Astute, unexpected, and highly recommended for anyone suspicious of the self-help genre, and/or fed up with the current obsession for viewing sadness as a chemical disease with only medical cures.
Charles Keiffer
Apr 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing

This book is a stunning example of the potential of affect theory for cultural studies and academia in general. It's beautifully written and lovely to read, refreshingly sensitive in its analysis of Medieval thought, and an utter tour de force in its new perspective on depression and contemporary life.
Sep 28, 2014 rated it liked it
frequently insightful, frequently superficial, frequently brought out my inner editor. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Nov 05, 2014 rated it liked it
The introduction is an incredible essay well worth reading. Perhaps it was simply because it raised by hopes and excitement so high that I was rather let down by the rest of the book.
It took me forever to get through the Introduction (oh, Duke University Press), so if you get stuck there, I recommend just skipping it -- but once I got through that, I really liked the book.
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Ann Cvetkovich is Ellen C. Garwood Centennial Professor of English and Professor of Women's and Gender Studies at the University of Texas, Austin. She is the author of Depression: A Public Feeling, An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures, and Mixed Feelings: Feminism, Mass Culture, and Victorian Sensationalism; a coeditor of Political Emotions; and a former editor of ...more

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