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Hobbes and the Wolf-Man: Melancholy and Animality in Modern Sovereignty

Diego Rossello, "Hobbes and the wolf-man: Melancholy and Animality in Modern Sovereignty", New Literary History, 2012, 43: 255-279

26 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2009 Last revised: 8 Mar 2013

Diego Hernan Rossello

Northwestern University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: Spring 2012

Abstract

Homo homini lupus, man is a wolf to man, remains one of the most well-known and often quoted dicta in the tradition of political theory. Political theorists take this phrase by Thomas Hobbes in the Epistle Dedicatory of De Cive to illustrate the brutish, anarchical, and violent condition of man in the state of nature, prior to the establishment of a civil state. Contrary to conventional wisdom, I suggest that this brief passage directs our attention to lycanthropy: an acute, melancholic syndrome which seventeenth-century scholars thought could turn humans into animals. I suggest that Hobbes's political theory stands for a therapeutic intervention to curb the lycanthropic tendencies of his time. Hobbes's shock therapy implies leaving animality behind, as nonpolitical, and securing humanity in an artificial commonwealth. However, Hobbes's intervention will be insufficient, as the animality left behind, excluded from the realm of politics, will return reinstating symptoms of lycanthropy.

Suggested Citation

Rossello, Diego Hernan, Hobbes and the Wolf-Man: Melancholy and Animality in Modern Sovereignty (Spring 2012). Diego Rossello, "Hobbes and the wolf-man: Melancholy and Animality in Modern Sovereignty", New Literary History, 2012, 43: 255-279 . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1456923 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1456923

Diego Hernan Rossello (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Department of Political Science ( email )

601 University Place (Scott Hall)
Evanston, IL 60201
United States

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