Nostalgia: More Sour than Sweet?

Annabel Dewing

To my brother, John, who I look up to the most in the world. Thank you for the endless love and support, everything I do is for you!

Keywords: College, Pandemic, Memory, Normalcy, Stuck

When you think of the word nostalgia, what feelings come to mind? Nostalgia is formally defined as: a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with personal associations. For me, the idea of Nostalgia brings up mixed feelings, feelings of remembrance about both positive and negative moments in my past days of life. As much as I hate to admit it, sometimes I find myself obsessing over the feeling of longing for past moments in life; this topic is deeply important to me as I have noticed now more than ever the feeling of nostalgia playing a role in my everyday life. I think that my peers as well as anyone who may choose to read this paper could benefit from taking a deep dive on what nostalgia really is, and how it affects everyone’s life in similar yet different ways. A question that I would like to pose is: Does nostalgia lead to unrealistic thoughts or hopes for the future? I wish to analyze and discuss the rhetorical nature of nostalgia within a community of college-age students in a post COVID-19 pandemic world; I argue that the rhetoric of nostalgia may hinder the forward progression in a person’s current life.


The age group that I have selected to analyze is a very malleable and persuadable group, therefore certain feelings can be very provocative and formative towards their development and life in general. I will be touching on how one thinks about nostalgia, in a positive or negative light, and what moves a person to shed the light of a past experience onto a future one. I hope to discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the rhetoric of nostalgia. I have chosen to develop these claims as I relate to certain sides of them on a personal level, and by providing my audience with my personal views I hope to utilize pathos and instill emotion.


I define the rhetoric of nostalgia as communication, whether they be internal or external, of past memories and emotions that may persuade or influence a person and his or her actions. When examining rhetoric of nostalgia, college age men and women are a very interesting group to look at. Nostalgia affects people’s lives in similar yet different ways. Personally, some of the memories that I experience the most nostalgia throughout my entire life have been happy ones, such as sitting on a beach building a sandcastle with my father or making a pumpkin pie with my mother and brother every Thanksgiving. I think that for me those warm and fuzzy feelings are encompassed in the feelings of nostalgia, these are just some of my own personal anecdotes. College in general is a learning experience, we as students are told to open our minds up to the endless possibilities and new knowledge that we can gain from this experience. This is why a person’s college years are so influential, we are still deciding who we want to be, and essentially carving our own path. While the memories and feelings we college students are nostalgic about may be different, sometimes the outcomes may be very similar. Internal and external conversations about nostalgic feelings between this group may be detrimental to their fast paced, forward moving lives.


Those nostalgic thoughts we all have might not be as innocent as we think, and in fact may be holding us as a human race back from being truly present. It is important to have a total view on nostalgia, the good and the bad, to completely understand the feeling and how it may persuade or affect our actions as human beings with very delicate feelings. When reading Nostalgia: Past, Present, and Future I came across a very interesting viewpoint; this article says that “It was also considered a bad omen- Nostalgia was once regarded as a medical disease” (Sedikides, 5). While I don’t think I would take it as far as this article to say that nostalgia is a harmful disease, I do think that the author makes a good point in gesturing towards how I put it, Nostalgia: more sour than sweet? I think that rhetoric ties into all of this as a teachable moment and an insight of how memories and emotions may persuade or influence a person and his or her actions and or thoughts. I believe those nostalgic moments, that every one of us feels, has more of an effect on our progression of life than one may think. One of the greatest takeaways that I had from my previous schooling is the quote “be where your feet are.” This quote essentially means don’t let other noise take you away from the present moment. I find it really interesting to be able to look at how nostalgia can be thought of as bringing back those warm, fuzzy memories, but at the same time it can put a halt on your forward progression in life. Not to mention, can you be nostalgic about a negative feeling? Another question that fueled my thought process for this writing piece is: can nostalgic feelings about memories, that were positive or neutral, turn into negative connotations later?


The COVID-19 pandemic has created a whole new type and level of nostalgia that by being in a similar stage of life, college age people can relate to. The past year and a half has been a drastically different type of life than the one we were accustomed to living pre-pandemic. Whether it is the worry of getting sick, someone who you love getting sick, or just having to adjust our everyday practices- it has been extremely taxing. I know that in recent months I have longed for earlier times. However, life prior to the pandemic is definitely something that I find myself yearning for, or having nostalgic feelings about. In an article from the University of Virginia student newspaper, Jane Kelly said “With all of the uncertainty in the world right now, it makes sense that we would want to retreat into something that we’re familiar with, because we can predict it” (Kelly, 2). Humans hate change, and I believe that this is part of the reason that we as humans fall back on nostalgia to make us feel safe and okay with change. However, this post-pandemic lifestyle may be our ‘new normal,’ is denying the fact of change and living vicariously through nostalgic feelings helpful to us? We college students are still deciding who we want to be while paving our own path, which is something that may be hindered very easily. To a certain extent, nostalgia provides sanctuary to those struggling especially through times such as a worldwide pandemic that has gone on much longer than expected. One may argue that looking back on the past can provide joyful benefits. For example, the remembrance of a loved one who may no longer be with you, or a moment in time that you knew would be etched in your mind forever. While to a small extent that may be fruitful, I like to live my life by the philosophy of everything in moderation. Getting overly caught up with nostalgia remembrances of past times, rather than focusing on the present, can in fact be harmful. With that being said, the negative implications of rhetoric surrounding nostalgia can be especially harmful and restrictive during the times of COVID and the new post pandemic world we live in.


In conclusion, nostalgia is a crucial feeling to human existence. Whether you believe it is solely a positive thing, solely a negative thing, or a combination of both is up to you. The rhetoric of nostalgia within college-age students in a post COVID-19 pandemic world can create complacency, which will hinder progress in the current life you are living. This ‘new normal,’ thanks to COVID, will present some challenges; and I challenge you to press onward rather than allowing nostalgic thoughts and feelings of precedent times hinder you. If your mind is constantly in a stand-still, how will you progress forward?

Works Cited


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Memories and Global Geographies.” Cultural Geographies, vol. 13, no. 2, Sage Publications, Ltd., 2006, pp. 207–38.


Hatch, Mary Jo. “Nostalgia for Because.” Journal of Management Inquiry, vol. 27, no. 2, SAGE

Publications Inc, Apr. 2018, pp. 138–39. SAGE Journals,


Sedikides, Constantine, et al. “Nostalgia: Past, Present, and Future.” Current Directions in

Psychological Science, vol. 17, no. 5, [Association for Psychological Science, Sage Publications, Inc.], 2008, pp. 304–07.


“‘The Way We Were’: Why COVID-19 Is Making Us Nostalgic for Simpler Times.” UVA

Today, 30 July 2020,


Wildschut, Tim, et al. “Nostalgia: Content, Triggers, Functions.” Journal of Personality and

Social Psychology, vol. 91, no. 5, American Psychological Association, Nov. 2006, pp. 975–93. 2006-20034-013, EBSCOhost,


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Feeling Rhetoric Copyright © 2022 by Annabel Dewing is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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