Get back! Methods for Exploring Discourses of Nostalgia and Nostalgic Discourses Using Corpora
Parole chiave:Corpus linguistics, Corpus-assisted discourse studies (CADS), Methodology, Discursive contructions of emotions, Representations of nostalgia
Nostalgia for something lost (factual or imagined) has shaped nations and continues to shape national self-image and policies. The rhetorical appeal to nostalgia has been blamed for a range of phenomena, from populism to reactionary politics at large, and yet research in psychology has suggested that nostalgising has a beneficial cognitive function. The dissonance between the negative reputation of nostalgia and the science of how it works for us, as a positive and useful emotion, is related to the fact that nostalgia is not a given content, but a situated cultural practice. I here use corpus linguistics methods to pursue the mismatch between the “discourse of nostalgia” and “nostalgic discourses” and to move from expressions that denote nostalgia, to expressions that signal it. This paper reports on the methodological explorations analysing large newspaper corpora and working on the overlaps between the collocational profile of nostalgia and the markers of nostalgic discourse. The aim is to exploit corpus studies’ ability to systematically analyze patterns as a gateway to access nostalgic narratives. Nostalgia is, in fact, intrinsically discursive: it is a story of transformation, and it is the story of felt absences in the present compared to an ‘elsewhen’. Understanding the narratives of nostalgia and identifying a typology of nostalgic discursive triggers may offer insights into how this pervasive, powerful and often profitable emotion gains purchase in public discourse.
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