Aberrations of Mourning
Laurence A. Rickels University of Minnesota Press, 2011 Library of Congress PT129.R47 2011 | Dewey Decimal 830.9353
Aberrations of Mourning, originally published in 1988, is the long unavailable first book in Laurence A. Rickels’s “unmourning” trilogy, followed by The Case of California and Nazi Psychoanalysis.
Rickels studies mourning and melancholia within and around psychoanalysis, analyzing the writings of such thinkers as Freud, Nietzsche, Lessing, Heinse, Artaud, Keller, Stifter, Kafka, and Kraus. Rickels maintains that we must shift the way we read literature, philosophy, and psychoanalysis to go beyond traditional Oedipal structures.
Aberrations of Mourning argues that the idea of the crypt has had a surprisingly potent influence on psychoanalysis, and Rickels shows how society’s disturbed relationship with death and dying, our inability to let go of loved ones, has resulted in technology to form more and more crypts for the dead by preserving them—both physically and psychologically—in new ways.
The Afterlives of Specimens explores the space between science and sentiment, the historical moment when the human cadaver became both lost love object and subject of anatomical violence. Walt Whitman witnessed rapid changes in relations between the living and the dead. In the space of a few decades, dissection evolved from a posthumous punishment inflicted on criminals to an element of preservationist technology worthy of the presidential corpse of Abraham Lincoln. Whitman transitioned from a fervent opponent of medical bodysnatching to a literary celebrity who left behind instructions for his own autopsy, including the removal of his brain for scientific study.
Grounded in archival discoveries, Afterlives traces the origins of nineteenth-century America’s preservation compulsion, illuminating the influences of botanical, medical, spiritualist, and sentimental discourses on Whitman’s work. Tuggle unveils previously unrecognized connections between Whitman and the leading “medical men” of his era, such as the surgeon John H. Brinton, founding curator of the Army Medical Museum, and Silas Weir Mitchell, the neurologist who discovered phantom limb syndrome. Remains from several amputee soldiers whom Whitman nursed in the Washington hospitals became specimens in the Army Medical Museum.
Tuggle is the first scholar to analyze Whitman’s role in medically memorializing the human cadaver and its abandoned parts.
Ambrose Bierce and the Dance of Death uses psychoanalytic theory in combination with historical, cultural, and literary contexts to examine the complex motif of death in a full range of Bierce’s writings. Scholarly interest in Bierce, whose work has long been undervalued, has grown significantly in recent years. This new book contributes to the ongoing reassessment by providing new contexts for joining the texts in his canon in meaningful ways.
Previous attempts to consider Bierce from a psychological perspective have been superficial, often reductive Freudian readings of individual stories such as “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” and “The Death of Halpin Frayser.” This new volume not only updates these interpretations with insights from post-Freudian theorists but uses contemporary death theory as a framework to analyze the sources and expressions of Bierce’s attitudes about death and dying. This approach makes it possible to discern links among texts that resolve some of the still puzzling ambiguities that have—until now—precluded a fuller understanding of both the man and his writings.
Lively and engaging, Ambrose Bierce and the Dance of Death adds valuable new insights not only to the study of Bierce but to that of nineteenth-century American literature in general.
The most widely practiced and read form of verse in America, “elegies are poems about being left behind,” writes Max Cavitch. American Elegy is the history of a diverse people’s poetic experience of mourning and of mortality’s profound challenge to creative living. By telling this history in political, psychological, and aesthetic terms, American Elegy powerfully reconnects the study of early American poetry to the broadest currents of literary and cultural criticism.Cavitch begins by considering eighteenth-century elegists such as Franklin, Bradstreet, Mather, Wheatley, Freneau, and Annis Stockton, highlighting their defiance of boundaries—between public and private, male and female, rational and sentimental—and demonstrating how closely intertwined the work of mourning and the work of nationalism were in the revolutionary era. He then turns to elegy’s adaptations during the market-driven Jacksonian age, including more obliquely elegiac poems like those of William Cullen Bryant and the popular child elegies of Emerson, Lydia Sigourney, and others. Devoting unprecedented attention to the early African-American elegy, Cavitch discusses poems written by free blacks and slaves, as well as white abolitionists, seeing in them the development of an African-American genealogical imagination. In addition to a major new reading of Whitman’s great elegy for Lincoln, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” Cavitch takes up less familiar passages from Whitman as well as Melville’s and Lazarus’s poems following Lincoln’s death. American Elegy offers critical and often poignant insights into the place of mourning in American culture. Cavitch examines literary responses to historical events—such as the American Revolution, Native American removal, African-American slavery, and the Civil War—and illuminates the states of loss, hope, desire, and love in American studies today.Max Cavitch is assistant professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania.
People in the Middle Ages had chantry chapels, mortuary rolls, the daily observance of the Office of the Dead, and even purgatory—but they were still unable to talk about death. Their inability wasn’t due to religion, but philosophy: saying someone is dead is nonsense, as the person no longer is. The one thing that can talk about something that is not, as D. Vance Smith shows in this innovative, provocative book, is literature.
Covering the emergence of English literature from the Old English to the late medieval periods, Arts of Dying argues that the problem of how to designate death produced a long tradition of literature about dying, which continues in the work of Heidegger, Blanchot, and Gillian Rose. Philosophy’s attempt to designate death’s impossibility is part of a literature that imagines a relationship with death, a literature that intensively and self-reflexively supposes that its very terms might solve the problem of the termination of life. A lyrical and elegiac exploration that combines medieval work on the philosophy of language with contemporary theorizing on death and dying, Arts of Dying is an important contribution to medieval studies, literary criticism, phenomenology, and continental philosophy.
The Carnivalesque Defunto explores the representations of death and the dead in Brazil’s collective and literary imagination. The recurring stereotype of Brazil as the land of samba, soccer, and sandy beaches overlooks a more complex cultural heritage in which, since colonial times, a relationship of proximity and reciprocity has been cultivated between the living and the dead.
Robert H. Moser details the emergence of a prominent motif in modern Brazilian literature, namely the carnivalesque defunto (the dead) that, in the form of a protagonist or narrator, returns to beseech, instruct, chastise, or even seduce the living. Drawing upon the works of esteemed Brazilian writers such as Machado de Assis, Érico Veríssimo, and Jorge Amado, Moser demonstrates how the defunto, through its mocking laughter and Dionysian resurrection, simultaneously subverts and inverts the status quo, thereby exposing underlying points of tension within Brazilian social and political history.
Incorporating elements of both a celestial advocate and an untrustworthy specter, the defunto also serves as a metaphor for one of modern Brazil’s greatest dilemmas: reconciling the past with the present.
The Carnivalesque Defunto offers a comparative framework by juxtaposing the Brazilian literary ghost with other Latin American, Caribbean, and North American examples. It also presents a cross-disciplinary approach toward understanding the complex relationship forged between Brazil’s spiritual traditions and literary expressions.
The Celebration of Death in Contemporary Culture investigates the emergence and meaning of the cult of death. Over the last three decades, Halloween has grown to rival Christmas in its popularity. Dark tourism has emerged as a rapidly expanding industry. “Corpse chic” and “skull style” have entered mainstream fashion, while elements of gothic, horror, torture porn, and slasher movies have streamed into more conventional genres. Monsters have become pop culture heroes: vampires, zombies, and serial killers now appeal broadly to audiences of all ages. This book breaks new ground by viewing these phenomena as aspects of a single movement and documenting its development in contemporary Western culture.
This book links the mounting demand for images of violent death with dramatic changes in death-related social rituals. It offers a conceptual framework that connects observations of fictional worlds—including The Twilight Saga, The Vampire Diaries, and the Harry Potter series—with real-world sociocultural practices, analyzing the aesthetic, intellectual, and historical underpinnings of the cult of death. It also places the celebration of death in the context of a longstanding critique of humanism and investigates the role played by 20th-century French theory, posthumanism, transhumanism, and the animal rights movement in shaping the current antihumanist atmosphere.
This timely, thought-provoking book will appeal to scholars of culture, film, literature, anthropology, and American and Russian studies, as well as general readers seeking to understand a defining phenomenon of our age.
When Lee Siegel went to India to do research for a book on Sanskrit horror literature, a friend in New Delhi told him about an itinerant teller of ghost and vampire tales, a man with clusters of amulets around his neck and a silk top hat with peacock plumes on his head. Siegel set out in search of the old man—called Brahm Kathuwala—to hear his stories and to learn about his uncommon life.
But what started out as a study of other people's stories became a compelling story itself. City of Dreadful Night is an astonishing work of fiction, a tangle of tales that transports the reader from the Medieval India of magicians, witches, and vampires, through the British India of Brahm Kathuwala's childhood, into the chaos and political terror of contemporary India. Vividly recreating Indian literary and oral traditions, Siegel weaves a web of possession, reincarnation, and magical transformation unlike any found in the Western tradition. Flesh-eating demons, Rajiv Gandhi's assassin, even Bram Stoker and Dracula populate the serpentine narrative, which intermingles stories about the characters with the terrifying tales they tell.
Siegel pursues Brahm Kathuwala from the ghastly lights of the cremation ground at Banaras through villages all over north India. Brahm's life story is revealed through countless tales along the way. We learn that he was raised, and abandoned, by two mothers—one the destitute floor sweeper who bore him; the other her employer, a wealthy Irish woman who read and reread to him the story of Dracula. We hear of his marriage to the daughter of a cremation ground attendant, his battles against her demonic possession, and their painful parting. We come to understand the daily life and motivations of this "horror professional," who uses terrifying tales to ward off the evil he himself fears.
This unorthodox book is more than a story; it blends scholarship, fantasy, travelogue, and autobiography—fusing and overlapping historical accounts and newscasts, literary texts and films, dreams and nocturnal tales. Siegel uses imagination to explore the relation of real terror to horror fiction and to contemplate the ways fear and disgust become thrilling elements in stories of the macabre.
This book is the product of Siegel's deep knowledge of both Indian and Western literary and philosophical traditions. It is also an attempt to come to grips with the omnipresence of political and religious terror in contemporary India. Shocking, original, beautifully written, City of Dreadful Night offers readers a captivating immersion in the wonder and terror of India, past and present.
To 21st century readers, 19th century depictions of death look macabre if not maudlin—the mourning portraits and quilts, the postmortem daguerreotypes, and the memorial jewelry now hopelessly, if not morbidly, distressing. Yet this sentimental culture of mourning and memorializing provided opportunities to the bereaved to assert deeply held beliefs, forge social connections, and advocate for social and political change. This culture also permeated the literature of the day, especially the works of Edgar Allan Poe and Walt Whitman. In Communities of Death, Adam C. Bradford explores the ways in which the ideas, rituals, and practices of mourning were central to the work of both authors.
While both Poe and Whitman were heavily influenced by the mourning culture of their time, their use of it differed. Poe focused on the tendency of mourners to cling to anything that could remind them of their lost loved ones; Whitman focused not on the mourner but on the soul’s immortality, positing an inevitable reunion. Yet Whitman repeatedly testified that Poe’s Gothic and macabre literature played a central role in spurring him to produce the transcendent Leaves of Grass.
By unveiling a heretofore marginalized literary relationship between Poe and Whitman, Bradford rewrites our understanding of these authors and suggests a more intimate relationship among sentimentalism, romanticism, and transcendentalism than has previously been recognized. Bradford’s insights into the culture and lives of Poe and Whitman will change readers’ understanding of both literary icons.
Harold K. Bush's Continuing Bonds with the Dead examines the profound transfiguration that the death of a child wrought on the literary work of nineteenth-century American writers. Taking as his subjects Harriet Beecher Stowe, Abraham Lincoln, William Dean Howells, Mark Twain, and W. E. B. Du Bois, Bush demonstrates how the death of a child became the defining "before-and-after moment" in their lives as adults and as artists. In narrating their struggles, Bush maps the intense field of creative energy induced by reverberating waves of parental grief and the larger nineteenth-century culture of mortality and grieving.
Bush explores in detail how each of these five writers grappled with and were altered by the loss of a child. He writes, for example, with moving insights about how the famed author of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn found himself adrift on a river of grief when meningitis struck down his daughter, Susy. In his deeply learned exploration of Twain's subsequent work, Bush illuminates how Twain wrote to cope with Susy's death, to make sense of her persistent presence in his life, and possibly to redeem her loss. Passionate and personal, Bush's insightful prose traces the paths of personal transformation each of these emblematic American writers took in order to survive the spiritual trauma of loss.
The savage Civil War was America's shared "before and after moment," the pivot upon which the nation's future swung. Bush's account of these five writers' grief amplifies our understanding of America's evolving, national relationship to mourning from then to the present.
The seventeenth-century French philosopher Nicolas Malebranche thought that philosophy could learn a valuable lesson from prayer, which teaches us how to attend, wait, and be open for what might happen next. Death Be Not Proud explores the precedents of Malebranche’s advice by reading John Donne’s poetic prayers in the context of what David Marno calls the “art of holy attention.”
If, in Malebranche’s view, attention is a hidden bond between religion and philosophy, devotional poetry is the area where this bond becomes visible. Marno shows that in works like “Death be not proud,” Donne’s most triumphant poem about the resurrection, the goal is to allow the poem’s speaker to experience a given doctrine as his own thought, as an idea occurring to him. But while the thought must feel like an unexpected event for the speaker, the poem itself is a careful preparation for it. And the key to this preparation is attention, the only state in which the speaker can perceive the doctrine as a cognitive gift. Along the way, Marno illuminates why attention is required in Christian devotion in the first place and uncovers a tradition of battling distraction that spans from ascetic thinkers and Church Fathers to Catholic spiritual exercises and Protestant prayer manuals.
During the 1940s, in response to the charge that his writing was filled with violence, Richard Wright replied that the manner came from the matter, that the “relationship of the American Negro to the American scene [was] essentially violent,” and that he could deny neither the violence he had witnessed nor his own existence as a product of racial violence. Abdul R. JanMohamed provides extraordinary insight into Wright’s position in this first study to explain the fundamental ideological and political functions of the threat of lynching in Wright’s work and thought. JanMohamed argues that Wright’s oeuvre is a systematic and thorough investigation of what he calls the death-bound-subject, the subject who is formed from infancy onward by the imminent threat of death. He shows that with each successive work, Wright delved further into the question of how living under a constant menace of physical violence affected his protagonists and how they might “free” themselves by overcoming their fear of death and redeploying death as the ground for their struggle.
Drawing on psychoanalytic, Marxist, and phenomenological analyses, and on Orlando Patterson’s notion of social death, JanMohamed develops comprehensive, insightful, and original close readings of Wright’s major publications: his short-story collection Uncle Tom’s Children; his novels Native Son, The Outsider, Savage Holiday, and The Long Dream; and his autobiography Black Boy/American Hunger. The Death-Bound-Subject is a stunning reevaluation of the work of a major twentieth-century American writer, but it is also much more. In demonstrating how deeply the threat of death is involved in the formation of black subjectivity, JanMohamed develops a methodology for understanding the presence of the death-bound-subject in African American literature and culture from the earliest slave narratives forward.
Dickens’s Forensic Realism: Truth, Bodies, Evidence by Andrew Mangham is one of the first studies to bring the medical humanities to bear on the work of Dickens. Turning to the field of forensic medicine (or medical jurisprudence), Mangham uncovers legal and medical contexts for Dickens’s ideas that result in new readings of novels, short stories, and journalism by this major Victorian author. Dickens’s Forensic Realism argues that the rich and unstable nature of truth and representation in Dickens owes much to the ideas and strategies of a forensic Victorian age, obsessed with questioning the relationship between clues and truths, evidences and answers.
As Mangham shows, forensic medicine grew out of a perceived need to understand things with accuracy, leaning in part on the range of objectivities that inspired the inorganic sciences. At the same time, it had the burden of assisting the law in convicting the guilty and in exonerating the innocent. Practitioners of forensic medicine were uniquely mindful of unwanted variables such as human error and the vagaries of interpretation. In readings of Oliver Twist, Our Mutual Friend, Bleak House, The Pickwick Papers, Great Expectations, and Dickens’s early journalism, Mangham demonstrates that these questions about signification, perception, and reality are central to the stylistic complexities and playful tone often associated with Dickens. Moreover, the medico-legal context of Dickens’s fiction illuminates the richness and profundity, style and impact of Dicken’s narratives.
In the past twenty years, an increasing number of authors have written memoirs focusing on the last stage of their lives: Elizabeth KÃ¼bler-Ross, for example, in The Wheel of Life, Harold Brodkey in This Wild Darkness, Edward Said in Out of Place, and Tony Judt in The Memory Chalet. In these and other end-of-life memoirs, writers not only confront their own mortality but in most cases struggle to "die in character"—that is, to affirm the values, beliefs, and goals that have characterized their lives.
Examining the works cited above, as well as memoirs by Mitch Albom, Roland Barthes, Jean-Dominique Bauby, Art Buchwald, Randy Pausch, David Rieff, Philip Roth, and Morrie Schwartz, Jeffrey Berman's analysis of this growing genre yields some surprising insights. While the authors have much to say about the loneliness and pain of dying, many also convey joy, fulfillment, and gratitude. Harold Brodkey is willing to die as long as his writings survive. Art Buchwald and Randy Pausch both use the word fun to describe their dying experiences. Dying was not fun for Morrie Schwartz and Tony Judt, but they reveal courage, satisfaction, and fearlessness during the final stage of their lives, when they are nearly paralyzed by their illnesses.
It is hard to imagine that these writers could feel so upbeat in their situations, but their memoirs are authentically affirmative. They see death coming, yet they remain stalwart and focused on their writing. Berman concludes that the contemporary end-of-life memoir can thus be understood as a new form of death ritual, "a secular example of the long tradition of ars moriendi, the art of dying."
In Dying Modern, one of our foremost literary critics inspires new ways to read, write, and talk about poetry. Diana Fuss does so by identifying three distinct but largely unrecognized voices within the well-studied genre of the elegy: the dying voice, the reviving voice, and the surviving voice. Through her deft readings of modern poetry, Fuss unveils the dramatic within the elegiac: the dying diva who relishes a great deathbed scene, the speaking corpse who fancies a good haunting, and the departing lover who delights in a dramatic exit.
Focusing primarily on American and British poetry written during the past two centuries, Fuss maintains that poetry can still offer genuine ethical compensation, even for the deep wounds and shocking banalities of modern death. As dying, loss, and grief become ever more thoroughly obscured from public view, the dead start chattering away in verse. Through bold, original interpretations of little-known works, as well as canonical poems by writers such as Emily Dickinson, Randall Jarrell, Elizabeth Bishop, Richard Wright, and Sylvia Plath, Fuss explores modern poetry's fascination with pre- and postmortem speech, pondering the literary desire to make death speak in the face of its cultural silencing.
Essays from a master critic on how artistic giants from modernism onward confronted mortality—forging unexpected links between Twain, Woolf, Mahler, Wittgenstein, Beckett, Toni Morrison, and more
While much about modernism remains up for debate, there can be no dispute about the connection between modernist art and death. The long modern moment was and is an age of war, genocide, and annihilation. Two world wars killed perhaps as many as 100 million people, through combat, famine, holocaust, and ghastly attacks on civilians. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is the fifth global pandemic since 1918, with more than a half-million American deaths and counting.
It can hardly come as a surprise, then, that many of the touchstones of modernism reflect on death and devastation. In Philip D. Beidler’s exploration of the modernist canon, he illuminates how these singular voices looked extinction in the eye and tried to reckon with our finitude—and their own. The Great Beyond:Art in the Age of Annihilation catalogs through lively prose an eclectic selection of artists, writers, and thinkers. In 16 essays, Beidler takes nuanced and surprising approaches to well-studied figures—the haunting sculpture by Saint-Gaudens commissioned by Henry Adams for his late wife; Luchino Visconti’s adaptation of Mann’s Death in Venice; and the author’s own long fascination with Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.
The threads and recurring motifs that emerge through Beidler’s analysis bridge the different media, genres, and timeframes of the works under consideration. Protomodernists Crane and Twain connect with near-contemporary voices like Sebald and Morrison. Robert MacFarlane’s 21st-century nonfiction about what lies underneath the earth echoes the Furerbunker and the poetry of Gertrud Kolmar. Learned but lively, somber but not grim, The Great Beyond is not a comfortable read, but it is in a way comforting. In tracing how his subjects confronted nothingness, be it personal or global, Beidler draws a brilliant map of how we see the end of the road.
The refusal to recognize kinship relations among slaves, interracial couples, and same-sex partners is steeped in historical and cultural taboos. In Kindred Specters, Christopher Peterson explores the ways in which non-normative relationships bear the stigma of death that American culture vehemently denies.
Probing Derrida’s notion of spectrality as well as Orlando Patterson’s concept of “social death,” Peterson examines how death, mourning, and violence condition all kinship relations. Through Charles Chesnutt’s The Conjure Woman, Peterson lays bare concepts of self-possession and dispossession, freedom and slavery. He reads Toni Morrison’s Beloved against theoretical and historical accounts of ethics, kinship, and violence in order to ask what it means to claim one’s kin as property. Using William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! he considers the political and ethical implications of comparing bans on miscegenation and gay marriage.
Tracing the connections between kinship and mourning in American literature and culture, Peterson demonstrates how racial, sexual, and gender minorities often resist their social death by adopting patterns of affinity that are strikingly similar to those that govern normative relationships. He concludes that socially dead “others” can be reanimated only if we avow the mortality and mourning that lie at the root of all kinship relations.
Christopher Peterson is visiting assistant professor of literature at Claremont McKenna College.
Viewing stories and novels from an ethnographic perspective, Eduardo González here explores the relationship between myth, ritual, and death in writings by Borges, Vargas Llosa, Cortázar, and Roa Bastos. He then weaves this analysis into a larger cultural fabric composed of the works of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Joyce, Benjamin, H. G. Wells, Kafka, Poe, and others. What interests González is the signature of authorial selfhood in narrative and performance, which he finds willfully and temptingly disfigured in the works he examines: horrific and erotic, subservient and tyrannical, charismatic and repellent. Searching out the personal image and plot, González uncovers two fundamental types of narrative: one that strips character of moral choice; and another in which characters' choices deprive them of personal autonomy and hold them in ritual bondage to a group. Thus The Monstered Self becomes a study of the conflict between individual autonomy and the stereotypes of solidarity. Written in a characteristically allusive, elliptical style, and drawing on psychoanalysis, religion, mythology, and comparative literature, The Monstered Self is in itself a remarkable performance, one that will engage readers in anthropology, psychology, and cultural history as well as those specifically interested in Latin American narrative.
“All art and the love of art,” Victor Brombert writes at the beginning of the deeply personal Musings on Mortality, “allow us to negate our nothingness.” As a young man returning from World War II, Brombert came to understand this truth as he immersed himself in literature. Death can be found everywhere in literature, he saw, but literature itself is on the side of life. With delicacy and penetrating insight, Brombert traces the theme of mortality in the work of a group of authors who wrote during the past century and a half, teasing out and comparing their views of death as they emerged from vastly different cultural contexts.
Leo Tolstoy, Thomas Mann, Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf, Albert Camus, Giorgio Bassani, J. M. Coetzee, and Primo Levi—these are the writers whose works Brombert plumbs, illuminating their views on the meaning of life and the human condition. But there is more to their work, he shows, than a pervasive interest in mortality: they wrote not only of physical death but also of the threat of moral and spiritual death—and as the twentieth century progressed, they increasingly reflected on the traumatic events of their times and the growing sense of a collective historical tragedy. He probes the individual struggle with death, for example, through Tolstoy’s Ivan Ilych and Mann’s Aschenbach, while he explores the destruction of whole civilizations in Bassani, Camus, and Primo Levi. For Kafka and Woolf, writing seems to hold the promise of salvation, though that promise is seen as ambiguous and even deceptive, while Coetzee, writing about violence and apartheid South Africa, is deeply concerned with a sense of disgrace. Throughout the book, Brombert roots these writers’ reflections in philosophical meditations on mortality. Ultimately, he reveals that by understanding how these authors wrote about mortality, we can grasp the full scope of their literary achievement and vision.
Drawing deeply from the well of Brombert’s own experience, Musings on Mortality is more than mere literary criticism: it is a moving and elegant book for all to learn and live by.
Narrative Mourning explores death and its relics as they appear within the confines of the eighteenth-century British novel. It argues that the cultural disappearance of the dead/dying body and the introduction of consciousness as humanity’s newfound soul found expression in fictional representations of the relic (object) or relict (person). In the six novels examined in this monograph—Samuel Richardson's Clarissa and Sir Charles Grandison; Sarah Fielding's David Simple and Volume the Last; Henry Mackenzie's The Man of Feeling; and Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho—the appearance of the relic/relict signals narrative mourning and expresses (often obliquely) changing cultural attitudes toward the dead.
Published by Bucknell University Press. Distributed worldwide by Rutgers University Press.
The Necropolitical Theater: Race and Immigration on the Contemporary Spanish Stage demonstrates how theatrical production in Spain since the early 1990s has reflected national anxieties about immigration and race. Jeffrey K. Coleman argues that Spain has developed a “necropolitical theater” that casts the non-European immigrant as fictionalized enemy—one whose nonwhiteness is incompatible with Spanish national identity and therefore poses a threat to the very Europeanness of Spain. The fate of the immigrant in the necropolitical theater is death, either physical or metaphysical, which preserves the status quo and provides catharsis for the spectator faced with the notion of racial diversity. Marginalization, forced assimilation, and physical death are outcomes suffered by Latin American, North African, and sub-Saharan African characters, respectively, and in these differential outcomes determined by skin color
Coleman identifies an inherent racial hierarchy informed by the legacies of colonization and religious intolerance.
Drawing on theatrical texts, performances, legal documents, interviews, and critical reviews, this book challenges Spanish theater to develop a new theatrical space. Jeffrey K. Coleman proposes a “convivial theater” that portrays immigrants as contributors to the Spanish state and better represents the multicultural reality of the nation today.
About the origins of Anglo-American poetic modernism, one thing is certain: it started with a notion of the image, described variously by Ezra Pound as an ideogram and a vortex. We have reason to be less confident, however, about the relation between these puzzling conceptions of the image and the doctrine of literary positivism that is generally held to be the most important legacy of Imagism. No satisfactory account exists, moreover, of what bearing these foundational principles may have on Pound's later engagement with fascism. Nor is it clear how figures such as the vortex and the ideogram might contribute generally to our understanding of modern visual culture and its compulsive appeal.
Radio Corpse addresses these issues and offers a fundamental revision of one of the most powerful and persistent aesthetic ideologies of modernism. Focusing on the necrophilic dimension of Pound's earliest poetry and on the inflections of materiality authorized by the modernist image, Daniel Tiffany establishes a continuum between Decadent practice and the incipient avant-garde, between the prehistory of the image and its political afterlife, between what Pound calls the "corpse language" of late Victorian poetry and a conception of the image that borrows certain "radioactive" qualities from the historical discovery of radium and the development of radiography. Emphasizing the phantasmic effects of translation (and exchange) in Pound's poetry, Tiffany argues that the cadaverous--and radiological--properties of the image culminate, formally and ideologically, in Pound's fascist radio broadcasts during World War II. Ultimately, the invisibility of these "radiant" images places in question basic assumptions regarding the optical character of images--assumptions currently being challenged by imageric technologies such as magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography.
Raising the Dead is a groundbreaking, interdisciplinary exploration of death’s relation to subjectivity in twentieth-century American literature and culture. Sharon Patricia Holland contends that black subjectivity in particular is connected intimately to death. For Holland, travelling through “the space of death” gives us, as cultural readers, a nuanced and appropriate metaphor for understanding what is at stake when bodies, discourses, and communities collide. Holland argues that the presence of blacks, Native Americans, women, queers, and other “minorities” in society is, like death, “almost unspeakable.” She gives voice to—or raises—the dead through her examination of works such as the movie Menace II Society, Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved, Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead, Randall Kenan’s A Visitation of Spirits, and the work of the all-white, male, feminist hip-hop band Consolidated. In challenging established methods of literary investigation by putting often-disparate voices in dialogue with each other, Holland forges connections among African-American literature and culture, queer and feminist theory. Raising the Dead will be of interest to students and scholars of American culture, African-American literature, literary theory, gender studies, queer theory, and cultural studies.
Reading Death in Ancient Rome
Mario Erasmo The Ohio State University Press, 2008 Library of Congress PA6029.D43E73 2008 | Dewey Decimal 870.93548
In Reading Death in Ancient Rome, Mario Erasmo considers both actual funerary rituals and their literary depictions in epic, elegy, epitaphs, drama, and prose works as a form of participatory theater in which the performers and the depicters of rituals engage in strategies to involve the viewer/reader in the ritual process, specifically by invoking and playing on their cultural associations at a number of levels simultaneously. He focuses on the associative reading process—the extent to which literary texts allude to funeral and burial ritual, the narrative role played by the allusion to recreate a fictive version of the ritual, and how the allusion engages readers’ knowledge of the ritual or previous literary intertexts.
Such a strategy can advance a range of authorial agendas by inviting readers to read and reread assumptions about both the surrounding Roman culture and earlier literature invoked through intertextual referencing. By (re)defining their relation to the dead, readers assume various roles in an ongoing communion with the departed.
Reading Death in Ancient Rome makes an important and innovative contribution to semiotic theory as applied to classical texts and to the emerging field of mortality studies. It should thus appeal to classicists as well as to advanced undergraduate and graduate students in art history and archeology.
Recalcitrance, Faulkner, and the Professors is a wonderfully fetching book of criticism that presents fairly, coherently, and forcefully the major critical viewpoints operating in literature studies today and puts them into an invigorating conflict. In the framework of a deliberately artificial plot, characters at an imaginary university present a variety of theoretical and critical points of view in a four-day round table discussion. Centering on Faulker's As I Lay Dying, the discussion has at stake the hand of Eve Birdsong, a student whose distress with the conflicts among her professors had inspired these proceedings. The cast also includes a young hero—assistant professor Charlie Mercer—professors representing a variety of contemporary critical positions, and several extraordinary students.
The discussion, presented in turn by speeches, exchanges in dialogue, and short papers, focuses on the concept of recalcitrance in fiction: the resistance that texts offer to the development of formal structures. Recalcitrance, Faulkner, and the Professors is, variously, a pedagogical text, a critical theory text, and a text about a single novel. But Wright's volume breaks the rules of categorization: it refuses to sit neatly in any genre.
James L. Calderwood offers a lively exploration of the ways in which Shakespeare dramatizes the strategies people employ to deal with and transcend the inevitability of death. In keeping with the views of Ernest Becker, Norman O. Brown, and others, Calderwood argues that the denial of death is fundamental to both individuals and their cultures. By drawing on a fascinating range of examples, he suggests how often and how variously Shakespeare dramatizes this desire for symbolic immortality.
Four hundred years after Shakespeare’s death, his plays live on in theater and popular culture, given new life through countless innovative approaches to their performance and interpretation. Just as our enthusiasm for seeing the plays performed—and transformed—affirms their continued life, death scenes in Shakespeare’s plays tend to mark not an ending but a transformation of life.
Published to accompany a major exhibition at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, Shakespeare’s Dead documents the many ways Shakespeare’s characters meet their demise, from suicide to murder, from death by workaday dagger to the more creative method of being baked and fed to one’s family in a meat pie. Through these examples, Simon Palfrey and Emma Smith show Shakespeare’s mastery at choreographing death as a means of rediscovery. Some characters refuse to go quietly, dying in stages, as in Nick Bottom’s performance as Pyramus killing himself with much flourish in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Others are remembered in elegies, and still others are resurrected or reappear as ghosts. Shakespeare’s death scenes also often speak to the boundaries between theater and everyday life, with funerals and scenes of mourning that are undercut by their staged inauthenticity.
Extensively illustrated with contemporary drawings and images from stage history, Shakespeare’s Dead takes readers through the playwright’s great death scenes and tragic figures, exploring in them the theme of life in death and delineating the cultural, religious, and social contexts.
Explores Whitman's intimate and lifelong concern with mortality and his troubled speculations about the afterlife
Walt Whitman is unquestionably a great poet of the joys of living. But as Harold Aspiz demonstrates in this study, concerns with death and dying define Whitman’s career as a thinker, a poet, and a person. Through a close reading of Leaves of Grass, its constituent poems, particularly “Song of Myself,” and Whitman’s prose and letters, Aspiz charts how the poet’s exuberant celebration of life—the cascade of sounds, sights, and smells that erupt in his verse—is a consequence of his central concern: the ever-presence of death and the prospect of an afterlife.
Until now no one has studied as systematically the degree to which mortality informs Whitman’s entire enterprise as a poet. So Long! devotes particular attention to Whitman’s language and rich artistry in the context of the poet’s social and intellectual milieus. We see Whitman (and his many personae) as a folk prophet announcing a gospel of democracy and immortality; pondering death in alternating moods of acceptance and terror; fantasizing his own dying and his postmortem selfhood; yearning for mates and lovers while conscious of fallible flesh; agonizing over the omnipresence of death in wartime; patiently awaiting death; and launching imaginary journeys toward immortality and godhood.
So Long! is valuable for American literature collections, students and scholars of Whitman and 19th-century literature, and general readers interested in Whitman and poetry. By exploring Whitman's faith in death as a meaningful experience, we may understand better how the poet—whether personified as representative man, victim, hero, lover, or visionary—lived so completely on the edge of life.
From essays about the Salem witch trials to literary uses of ghosts by Twain, Wharton, and Bierce to the cinematic blockbuster The Sixth Sense, this book is the first to survey the importance of ghosts and hauntings in American culture across time. From the Puritans’ conviction that a thousand preternatural beings appear every day before our eyes, to today’s resurgence of spirits in fiction and film, the culture of the United States has been obsessed with ghosts. In each generation, these phantoms in popular culture reflect human anxieties about religion, science, politics, and social issues. Spectral America asserts that ghosts, whether in oral tradition, literature, or such modern forms as cinema have always been constructions embedded in specific historical contexts and invoked for explicit purposes, often political in nature. The essays address the role of "spectral evidence" during the Salem witch trials, the Puritan belief in good spirits, the convergence of American Spiritualism and technological development in the nineteenth century, the use of the supernatural as a tool of political critique in twentieth-century magic realism, and the "ghosting" of persons living with AIDS. They also discuss ghostly themes in the work of Ambrose Bierce, Edith Wharton, Gloria Naylor, and Stephen King.
In ordinary life an Athenian woman was allowed no accomplishments beyond leading a quiet and exemplary existence as wife and mother. Her glory was to have no glory. In Greek tragedy, however, women die violently and, through violence, master their own fate. It is a genre that delights in blurring the formal frontier between masculine and feminine. Through the subtlety of her reading of these powerful and ambiguous texts, Nicole Loraux elicits an array of insights into Greek attitudes toward death, sexuality, and gender.
Scholars have long considered the elegiac characteristics of Thoreau's work. Yet few have explored how his personal views on death and dying influenced his philosophies and writings. In beautiful prose, Audrey Raden places Thoreau's views of death and dying at the center of his work, contending that it is crucial to consider the specific historical and regional contexts in which he lived—nineteenth-century New England—to fully appreciate his perspectives. To understand death and dying, Thoreau drew on Christian and Eastern traditions, antebellum Northern culture, Transcendentalism, and his personal relationship with nature. He then suffused his writings with these understandings, through what Raden identifies as three key approaches—the sentimental, the heroic, and the mystical.
When I Came to Die suggests that throughout his writings, Thoreau communicated that knowing how to die properly is an art and a lifelong study, a perspective that informed his ideas about politics, nature, and individualism. With this insight, Raden opens a dialogue that will engage both Thoreauvians and those interested in American literature and thought.