Weltschmerz (from the German, meaning world-pain or world-weariness, pronounced [ˈvɛltʃmɛɐ̯ts]) is a term coined by the German author Jean Paul and denotes the kind of feeling experienced by someone who believes that physical reality can never satisfy the demands of the mind. This kind of world view was widespread among several romantic and decadent authors such as Lord Byron, Oscar Wilde, William Blake, the Marquis de Sade, Charles Baudelaire, Giacomo Leopardi, Paul Verlaine, François-René de Chateaubriand, Alfred de Musset, Nikolaus Lenau, Hermann Hesse, and Heinrich Heine. It is also used to denote the feeling of anxiety caused by the ills of the world.
John Steinbeck wrote about this feeling in The Winter of Our Discontent and referred to it as the Welshrats; and in East of Eden, Samuel Hamilton feels it after meeting Cathy Trask for the first time. Ralph Ellison uses the term in Invisible Man with regard to the pathos inherent in the singing of spirituals: "beneath the swiftness of the hot tempo there was a slower tempo and a cave and I entered it and looked around and heard an old woman singing a spiritual as full of Weltschmerz as flamenco". Kurt Vonnegut references this feeling in his novel Player Piano; it is felt by Doctor Paul Proteus and his father. In Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, he describes an acquaintance, "Moldorf", who has prescriptions for Weltschmerz on scraps of paper in his pocket.
- Braun, Wilhelm Afred (1905). Types of Weltschmerz in German Poetry. London: Columbia University Press. Retrieved 9 April 2016.
- Stelzig, Eugene L. (1988). Hermann Hesse's Fictions of the Self: Autobiography and the Confessional Imagination. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 81. ISBN 0-691-06750-3. Retrieved 9 April 2016.
- The dictionary definition of Weltschmerz at Wiktionary