The Dominion of the Dead (Historical Studies of Urban America)

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9780226317915: The Dominion of the Dead (Historical Studies of Urban America)

How do the living maintain relations to the dead? Why do we bury people when they die? And what is at stake when we do? In The Dominion of the Dead, Robert Pogue Harrison considers the supreme importance of these questions to Western civilization, exploring the many places where the dead cohabit the world of the living--the graves, images, literature, architecture, and monuments that house the dead in their afterlife among us.

This elegantly conceived work devotes particular attention to the practice of burial. Harrison contends that we bury our dead to humanize the lands where we build our present and imagine our future. As long as the dead are interred in graves and tombs, they never truly depart from this world, but remain, if only symbolically, among the living. Spanning a broad range of examples, from the graves of our first human ancestors to the empty tomb of the Gospels to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Harrison also considers the authority of predecessors in both modern and premodern societies. Through inspired readings of major writers and thinkers such as Vico, Virgil, Dante, Pater, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Rilke, he argues that the buried dead form an essential foundation where future generations can retrieve their past, while burial grounds provide an important bedrock where past generations can preserve their legacy for the unborn.

The Dominion of the Dead is a profound meditation on how the thought of death shapes the communion of the living. A work of enormous scope, intellect, and imagination, this book will speak to all who have suffered grief and loss.

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About the Author:

Robert Pogue Harrison is the Rosina Pierotti Professor in Italian Literature and chairs the Department of French and Italian at Stanford University. He is the author of The Body of Beatrice and Forests: The Shadow of Civilization, the latter published by the University of Chicago Press.

From Publishers Weekly:

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.
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Robert Pogue Harrison
Editore: University Of Chicago Press (2003)
ISBN 10: 0226317919 ISBN 13: 9780226317915
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