Homeric term, nostos, which means homecoming. Homer used this term in his
epic, Odyssey,to show how homesick Odysseus grew when he freed himself from
the war. However, the modern derivative of this modern term is a medical
research. A student, Johannes Hofer, coined this term during his study over the
homesickness of the mercenaries, associated anxiety and mental pain he
observed among them. However, in literature, it is employed to discuss a general
interest in the past, or the personalities of the past and subsequent feelings of
pleasure or pain. Online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines nostalgia as,
“pleasure and sadness that is caused by remembering something from the past
and wishing that you could experience it again.” Therefore, it means that it is not
only sadness or sickness, but also the pleasure of remembering the past or taking
interest in the past. That is why the Romantic Movement in English literature has
a special association with nostalgia due to this pleasure and pain of remembering
Examples of Nostalgia from Literature
For I must now confess to you that I suffer from home-sickness — that I long so
ardently and earnestly for home, as sometimes, when no one sees me, to pine for
it. ... So dearly do I love the scene of my poverty and your kindness. O so dearly, O so dearly!
(Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens)
It was roses, roses, all the way,
With myrtle mixed in my path like mad.
The house-roofs seemed to heave and sway,
The church-spires flamed, such flags they had,
A year ago on this very day!
(Patriot into Traitor by Robert Browning, Lines 1-5).
Function of Nostalgia
Despite changes in its meanings over time, nostalgia has not lost its significance in
literature. It is used in poems, novels and plays to evoke feelings of sadness or
pleasure a character experiences when recalling his past. It could be the memory
of a past event, a victory, a love or a relationship. It is usually employed to evoke
the same feelings among the readers, so that they also could feel the tinge of
pain, or a bit of love for their near or dear ones. It could be used to evoke the
feelings of pleasure as well the readers could feel for some past happenings. It is
also that nostalgia has more than one functions to perform, such as alleviation in
mood from sadness to pleasure, increase of positive self-respect and removal of prejudice about the past events.