In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

??? COHPAnATIST definition through enactments ofinterpretive sophistication rather like those which he sees as characteristics both ofthe modern academy and ofqueer studies in particular . Litvak details a progression from self-conscious inscription within the context ofsocial politics and history in Austen, to the rejection ofa now ubiquitous sophisticated self-positioning in social terms in Thackeray, to Proust's sophisticated taste for waste and regressive sophistication which fuses a mature gay aesthetic with trenchant immaturity. The modem theorists, Adomo and Barthes, are viewed in relation to their disdain for mass culture, a standard sophisticate's pose, which forever leaves them outside ofmodem cultural studies proper. Elizabeth Richmond-GarzaUniversity ofTexas-Austin ARMANDO PETRUCCI. Writing the Dead: Death and Writing Strategies in the Western Tradition. Trans. Michael Sullivan. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1998. xvii + 163pp. In his well-conceived book on ultimate writing, Armando Petrucci takes his leave with the hope that humankind will not abandon writing the dead. In fact, Petrucci believes that the "historical vision oflife and ofthe species" will not let us fall into "the silence ofthe non-existent" (130), contrary to Jean-Didier Urbain, who concludes that more than twenty-seven hundred years ofa substantially unitary tradition ofwriting the dead is ending. At the close ofthe millennium interest has shifted to other areas than the cemeteries. For Petrucci, however, immortalizing the dead both "in praesentia" and "in absentia" will remain the most memorable way to deal with the inborn human need to reckon with life in terms ofthe memory ofthe dead. From early on, in the Western tradition and more specifically in the Mediterranean area, writing the dead was already an address by the living to other living beings. The initial warding offofthe world of the dead took the shape ofpublic writing directed primarily to the gods and to the dead, as is the case of Egyptian funerary writings dating back perhaps to the Eighteenth Dynasty, in the fourteenth century BC. Later, it took the shape of an address to the Athenian citizens. With Christianity, the community ofbelievers was the receiver ofthe messages, which soon were to be addressed to a public "both real and false," as happens today, where "a fragmented and indifferent society [. . J recognizes itselfonly in the atomized relationships ofrestricted family nuclei within which the written message of death has to perform its minimal function" (xvii). Our modern society, which has come to deny death, has moved away from the strictest aspects of this tradition upon which specific forms of representation and even the length of texts to be written on tombs were prescribed. The disposal of corpses, too, was a matter of ordinance. In fact, the Neoclassical funerary writings had acquired a very sober form, limiting the text to very few words, thus continuing to guarantee the memory ofonly a few "great" men. This took place despite the French revolutionary egalitarianism , exemplified by the Napoleonic edict that forbade forms ofprivate burial while enforcing the law demanding that graves be housed without distinctions outside the city walls. This revolutionary zeal did not stop the practice ofthe wealthier citizens in honoring their dead; it provoked instead a dissenting reaction from Ugo Foscolo, one of Italy's great poets. In his poem Isepolcri, Foscolo addresses the relations ofthe living with the dead and the relevance ofthe prayer over the tomb as the threshold between the two worlds. In his introduction, Petrucci underscores Vol 23 (1999): 189 BOOK NOTES his interest in "the external and material aspect ofwritten production, rather than on the matter ofthe text and its content" (xvi). Thus, together with the question of the audience, he proposes that we considerelements pertaining to the graphic style, the quality of writing, to the "modes of arrangement and layout of the text," the "techniques employed in the execution," "the number of people involved in the making ofthe testimonial," and the exterior aspect ofthe writing. The sixteen chapters that divide the book precede a well-informed "Notes" section and "Index," while mapping the history ofvarious forms ofwriting on funerary monuments. The excursus begins by separating the Egyptian tradition from the early Greek tradition. Next, the treatment ofthe tomb ofthe Scipios focuses the discussion on Roman culture. Following a history ofChristian customs, a...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1559-0887
Print ISSN
0195-7678
Pages
pp. 189-190
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.