The Dominion of the Dead

Robert Pogue Harrison, Author University of Chicago Press $22.5 (224p) ISBN 978-0-226-31791-5
Ranging over a variety of classical, biblical and modern philosophical sources, Harrison (Forests: The Shadow of Civilization) attempts nothing less than to reacquaint Western culture with its own thinking on death and, by doing so, to change its comportment toward mortality--and toward life. Among the book's many hermeneutic passages is a chapter titled""Hic Jacet"" (the""Here Lies"" of Roman gravestones), which discusses Walt Whitman's""burial"" of the Civil War in his poem""When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd."" Another chapter, titled""Hic Non Est"" (or""He is not here"" from the Gospel of Mark), unpacks historically variant meanings of the emptiness of Christ's tomb. Heidegger's thinking on""Being"" permeates every chapter of this book; the discussion of how the living get appropriated by history via the dead is nothing short of fascinating. Passing subjects include Homer, Rimbaud, Thoreau, Descartes, Pater, Poe, Hopkins and Rilke--to name just a few of the poets and thinkers whose work is discussed. A chaired professor of Italian literature at Stanford, Harrison also incorporates interpretations of lesser known portions of Petrarch, Leopardi, Vico, Pirandello, Croce, Ungaretti and Caproni. The result is something like a guide to the care of the self (and society) through an analysis of the care for the dead, written in a manner that is inimitable, provocative and intellectually compelling.
Reviewed on: 11/17/2003
Release date: 11/01/2003
Paperback - 208 pages - 978-0-226-31793-9
Open Ebook - 224 pages - 978-0-226-31792-2
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