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Most studies of solitude have focused on the modern individualized sense of solitude, located or originating in urbanized Western cultures where solitude is seen as a companion to urban modernity. In this perspective the larger historical and cultural context goes almost unnoticed together with the fact that the preoccupation with solitude, in various forms and functions, has been around for a longer time span than Modernity and with a broader cross-cultural perspective. However, the basic cultural function of the various understandings of solitude is the same across cultures: a negotiation of the boundaries of the human life world, but in forms that are historically contextualized and differentiated. With texts from William Shakespeare to J. M. Coetzee and with references to older mythology and its modern recycling this paper tries to capture the broader historical development of solitude in European culture as an imagined position on the boundary of the human life world.