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A Biography of Loneliness


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements Preface: No (Wo)man is an island Introduction: Loneliness as a 'modern epidemic' 1: When 'oneliness' became loneliness: the birth of a modern emotion 2: A 'disease of the blood'? The chronic loneliness of Sylvia Plath 3: Loneliness and lack: romantic love, from Wuthering Heights to Twilight 4: Widowhood and loss: from Thomas Turner to the Widow of Windsor 5: Instaglum? Social media and the making of online community 6: A 'ticking timebomb'? Rethinking loneliness in old age 7: Roofless and rootless: no place to call 'home' 8: Feeding the hunger. Materiality and the neglected lonely body 9: Lonely clouds and empty vessels. When loneliness is a gift Conclusion: reframing loneliness in a neoliberal age Further reading Appendix

About the Author

Fay Bound Alberti is a Reader in History and UKRI Future Leaders Fellow at the University of York. She is a TED speaker and has published widely on medicine, the body, gender and emotion in books and scholarly articles as well as in the media. She has taught at universities around the UK including UCL, Lancaster, Manchester, and York.


A compassionate, wide-ranging study. * Terry Eagleton, The Guardian *
In addition to Alberti's sharp political analysis, one of the most powerful themes in her book is how varied loneliness is, how embedded it is in our lives, how extensively it evades generalisation. Maybe loneliness is a 21st-century epidemic, a modern illness requiring an urgent response, but its also so much more than that. * Sophie McBain, The New Statesman *
Alberti conveys the ambivalence of loneliness as we now conceive of it, its mingling of horror and desirability in a machine age. * Jane O'Grady, Literary Review *
A wonderful biography of loneliness by a brilliant socio-cultural historian. * James Daybell, Histories of the Unexpected *
With wit and grace, Fay Bound Alberti traces the story of an often-painful emotion through its many guises and transformations. By showing that loneliness is not an existential universal but rather has causes and contexts, this book is itself a balm for anyone who has felt its stabs in the thick of crowded cities or amidst the chatter of social media. * Professor Barbara H. Rosenwein, Loyola University Chicago *
Beginning with the intriguing argument that loneliness is a modern emotional phenomenon, Fay Bound Alberti traces many facets and factors leading up to the current loneliness dilemma. The book contributes both to several facets in the history of emotion over the past two centuries, and to a humane understanding of the issues and possibilities involved today. * Dr Peter Stearns, George Mason University *
This fascinating book explores an increasingly central experience in our society-loneliness. Bound Alberti does a wonderful job of explaining where do all lonely people come from, and where do they all belong. The nuanced picture she draws has real potential to help us better understand, cope with, and reduce the most significant epidemic of our time. The author makes a particularly valuable distinction between fleeting and chronic loneliness. While fleeting loneliness can boost creativity and enhance emotional and spiritual clarity, chronic lonelinesswhich involves an existential sense of meaningless lackis devastatingly destructive. I highly recommend this important book for all readers. * Aaron Ben-Ze'ev, author of The Arc of Love *
Why is loneliness such a major concern in western societies? In this thoughtful, thought-provoking book Fay Bound Alberti traces modern loneliness from its nineteenth-century cultural and demographic origins to its latest incarnation as a health emergency, a scourge of western society. Exploring diverse experiences of loneliness - from William Wordsworths famous lonely as a cloud to Sylvia Plaths desperate description of it as a disease of the blood - Bound Alberti provides a compelling account of the causes and consequences of loneliness in an age when community solidarities are at a premium. * Barbara Taylor, Professor of Humanities at Queen Mary University of London; principal investigator on Wellcome Trust funded project, 'Pathologies of Solitude, 18th-21st Century' *

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