Becoming Posthumous: Life and Death in Literary and Cultural Studies

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Edinburgh University Press, 2001 - Literary Criticism - 158 pages
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Set against a backdrop of debates about the so-called 'end of history', 'the death of the subject' and 'the end of art', as well as the various forms of the 'post' that became prevalent in the late twentieth century. Jeremy Tambling introduces the idea of 'the posthumous' as a means of thinking about our relationship to the past, to death and to history.
The trope of the posthumous is played out in a pattern of four deftly argued 'case-chapters' devoted to Shakespeare's Cymbeline (where the hero is Posthumous), Dickens's David Copperfield (a 'posthumous child'), Nietzsche's Ecce Homo (the record of a posthumous life) and Benjamin's 'Theses on the Philosophy of History' (where history comes into being posthumously). Using these texts as a launching point Professor Tambling provides readings concerned with the questions of why we should give attention to history, and to past texts, if there has been an irretrievable 'break' with history, and where history has turned into the heritage industry.
Discussing why many writers - Dante, Shakespeare, Jonson, Keats, Dickens, Nietzsche - have been fascinated by the idea of 'posthumous' existence and why post-Nietzschean critics such as Foucault, Derrida and de Man have thought in terms of the death of the subject, Professor Tambling sets out to discover whether the past is dead in relation to the present, or the present in relation to the past.
Becoming Posthumous also provides introductory readings of the critical theory of Walter Benjamin, Maurice Blanchot, Gilles Deleuze, Pierre Klossowski and Jacques Derrida. In showing how the idea of posthumous existence runs right through literary and cultural theory as well as major literary works, the book will be relevant to those who are interested in literature, history and cultural studies, in theories of modernity, or the idea of 'living on', being a ghost, or just thinking about death and its relationship to life.

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About the author (2001)

Jeremy Tambling is Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Hong Kong

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