Death and the Limits of Representation
Using death as the subject of study, this course will explore the limits or representation, that is, the practice of communicating abstract ideas, visions, or arguments through concrete or recognizable forms. Death, which is ultimately unknowable, is nonetheless made "known" through images, discourse, and doctrine. Indeed, what is the concept of the "ghost" but an attempt to represent someone who is dead in the recognizable form of the body that once was alive. The ghost, who appears and disappears and is not bound by the laws of time or space, is largely present in its absence. By exploring texts by such authors as Plato, Shakespeare, Poe, Woolf and Levinas; and studying historical case studies (such as the Nazi "Final Solution"), we will attempt to understand the discourses and limits of representation. Thus our reading of Plato will focus on the ways his argument verges on defining death but is never definite. Similarly we will explore the attempt to represent death via metaphor and allegory as in the work of Shakespeare and Poe. This will lead us to explore the possibility of allowing death to remain radically “other” and thus unrepresentable as in the work of Heidegger and Blanchot.
|Requirements and Grading|
1. Class attendance and active participation are essential to pass this course.
2. One in class presentation/discussion leader based on materials and topics distributed in class.
3. One paper, 10-15 pages long.
|Authors to be read may include (but will not be limited to): Phillipe Aries, Maurice Blanchot, Martin Heidegger, Edgar Allan Poe, Plato, William Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf.|
Introduction (Death and Representation).
Heidegger, Being and Time I (§§ 46-49)
History and Death pt. I (Western Attitudes Toward
Death, Philippe Aries)
Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway