Homesickness sounds like the least important topic imaginable. In modern America, a longing for the familiar places and people we are separated from is routinely castigated as an immature character flaw barely tolerable in children at summer camp, much less in adults.It's not something I'd previously thought about at a societal level before, at least not explicitly. But my previous experiences with uprooting and how acute the pain of relocation can be have certainly affected my adult life. I've turned down promotional opportunities that would mean relocating outside the Kansas City metro area on multiple occasions with, I suspect, far less regret than most of my peers in a similar situation would have. Whether that's from moving frequently when I was younger or from being more naturally inclined towards my old stomping grounds than others are isn't something I can definitively answer, and it's probably some combination of both. But my point is, I get homesickness.
Anyway, there is a larger purpose to this post than mere self-indulgence. In the review, Steve writes:
Human emotions probably don't change much over time, but the words we use to describe them certainly cycle, whipped by fads and social forces. For example, Matt cites a pair of contemporary psychiatrists who note that many of their unhappy patients come to them having already self-diagnosed themselves as "depressed"—a respectable 21st Century malady for which pharmaceutical firms invent and market expensive pills—"but were in fact lonely."And he quotes the book's author, Susan J. Matt:
"[As] the longtime companion and sometime synonym of homesickness, [nostalgia] has become a less troublesome emotion, signifying a diffuse, unthreatening, and painless longing for the past. ... As an emotion, nostalgia has come to be widely celebrated, perhaps because it is now seen as harmless. Whereas the homesick may believe they can return home, the nostalgic know that moving backwards in time is impossible."I wondered if the history of the terms "homesick" and "nostalgic" in the American library would reflect this. As the former became tainted as a sign of puerility and the latter something goofily celebrated by SWPLs, we'd expect a decrease and an increase in literary frequencies, respectively. Well, that's exactly what we get (nostalgic, homesick):
The transition began after WWI and was proceeding in earnest by the end of WWII. Today, the term "nostalgic" is three times as common as the term "homesick" is. Go forth and be fruitful, I guess.