The Dominion of the Dead

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University of Chicago Press, Apr 15, 2010 - Social Science - 224 pages
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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User Review  - michael09 - LibraryThing

Although this book had very good reviews when published, I'm finding it infuriating: the writing is pompous, self congratulatory, and wilfully obscure. If you use the word academic as an insult, then ... Read full review

The dominion of the dead

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

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 ... Read full review

Contents

Chapter 1 The Earth and Its Dead
1
Chapter 2 Hic Jacet
17
Chapter 3 What Is a House?
37
Chapter 4 The Voice of Grief
55
Chapter 5 The Origin of Our Basic Words
72
Chapter 6 Choosing Your Ancestor
90
Chapter 7 Hic Non Est
106
Chapter 8 The Names of the Dead
124
Chapter 9 The Afterlife of the Image
142
Notes
161
Works Cited
183
Index
199
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About the author (2010)

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.

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