The novel as a work of mourning (trauerarbeit)--a performative response to loss: reading William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, Absalom, Absalom!, and Requiem for a Nun as 'prose elegies'--an alternative to postmodern melancholy.
This paper offers a reading of Faulkner's novels through the
prism of elegy. Diverting the focus of attention from the dominant
tragic elements in Faulkner's novels to the antithetical voice of
peaceful elegy hidden beyond them, I attempt to show that in writing
these novels Faulkner was performing an active work of mourning for his
own personal healing purposes. The definition of elegy by which I trace
the signs of mourning in Faulkner's work draws upon Peter
Sacks's book, The English Elegy: Studies in the Genre from Spenser
to Yeats (1987), which approaches the genre with the sense that
underlies Freud's phrase 'work of mourning',
(trauerarbeit), but links his theory to questions of aesthetics. It is
my contention that all the prerequisites of the genre traced in
Sacks's model of English poetry are conspicuously present in
Faulkner's American prose. Specifically, I examine As I Lay Dying,
Absalom, Absalom!, and Requiem for a Nun whose titles are a clear
invitation to the genre and to mourning rites. The model offered
constitutes a resurrective practice, indeed a 'technology of the
self' (Foucault). Reading for the genre, I wish to argue that what
lies at the heart of each of these masterpieces is the mourner's
formation of a new identity through the recognition of loss, and that it
is the function of the elegiac performance to make this redefinition of
the self possible. I likewise show how, by writing these novels,
Faulkner was, in fact, redefining his art and language, and himself as a
Keywords: Elegy, genre, 'work of mourning', melancholy, psychoanalytic function, resurrective practice, 'technology of the self'
|Publication:||Name: Journal of Social and Psychological Sciences Publisher: Oxford Mosaic Publications Limited Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Sociology and social work Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 Oxford Mosaic Publications Limited ISSN: 1756-7483|
|Issue:||Date: Jan, 2009 Source Volume: 2 Source Issue: 1|
The Novel as a Work of Mourning (trauerarbeit)--a Performative
Response to Loss: Reading William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying,
Absalom, Absalom!, and Requiem for a Nun as 'Prose
Elegies'--An Alternative to Postmodern Melancholy.
"To elegize is to sing about the end of things, apocalyptic matters both global and local, even as it is about memory and legacy. At the same time, as its song borders upon silence, to elegize also suggests something about how poets, as language users, devise beginnings--often ironic--in the face of discontinuity." (David Rigsbee) (1)
With plots that centre, like a great number of Faulkner's works, on funerals or recent losses, and narrative that unfolds murders, destruction, frustration and failure, Faulkner's text easily lends itself to an accumulation of terms, situations and feelings that warrant the sense of darkness and melancholy. It is my conviction, however, that beyond the heavily tragic material in Faulkner's fiction, there is an antithetical voice of peaceful elegy that no lover of Faulkner can afford to neglect. I wish to argue that beyond Faulkner's graveyard scenes, coffins, and decaying corpses, there is, in his major works, an antithetical voice, created by their richly creative structures and discourse, that marks acceptance of mourning rites, and associates with the literary genre that struggles with loss. Trying to correlate Faulkner's narrative techniques to his need, as a post war writer, to struggle with loss, I wish to argue that Faulkner's artistic procedures point to his obsession with death rites, rather than death, with mourning, rather than loss. My thesis is that if we take the purported negativity and absence in Faulkner at their face value, we can understand the pessimistic readings of his major works over the years, but if we read for the genre, we find that the poetics of elegy and its symbolic rituals shed light on its life-serving, rather than life negating, function.
Writing after the First (and Second) World Wars, as part of the so-called Lost Generation, Faulkner shared the concerns of his contemporaries, who faced death, loss, disintegration, and doubt of poetic powers, but, unlike them, found an aesthetic avenue that helped him, precisely, to cope and to overcome (2). Despite the seeming contradiction, I believe that a mourning genre will provide a more positively oriented approach for comprehending Faulkner's work than his many scenes of grief seem to suggest.
The definition of elegy by which I trace and understand the signs of mourning in Faulkner's work draws upon Peter Sacks's book, The English Elegy: Studies in the Genre from Spenser to Yeats (1987), which approaches the genre with the sense that underlies Freud's phrase 'work of mourning', (trauerarbeit) (Freud MM) (3), and offers elegy as a psychoanalytic framework for loss and recovery, a resurrective practice for the sustenance and renewal of a secure narrative of self-identity. The images of consolation for which Sacks provides psychoanalytic interpretations are--submission to substitutions, weaving, veiling and splitting techniques, repetitions and refrains, repetitive questions, staging devices, the creation of a fictive addressee, the urge for voice, light and dark imagery, and the journey metaphor. This set of strategies marks the mourner's acceptance of substitutions and mediations, by which he withdraws his affection from the lost object, distances himself from the dead, sets free the energy locked in grief and rage, and repeatedly confronts the fact of loss until recognition has been achieved. It is essential, says Sacks, that these strategies include also the act of inheritance, since the elegist's compensatory reward involves the creation of some device whereby the legacy may be seen to have entered a new successor. In close relation to the act of inheritance are the rituals of death and rebirth, by which the elegist attempts to achieve mastery over mourning, creating a fiction whereby nature and its changes, occasions of his grief, appear to depend on him.
We have to remember that by employing a mourning genre, Faulkner was modelling his writing not only against the solipsistic, narcissistic model of the American, Emersonian self, but also against the grain of the American cultural code with its taboo on public displays of death and bereavement (7), and against gender codes that forbid men to cry (8). Using the generic approach, I wish to mark Faulkner's special place among the men who do cry, but conceal their weeping in the form, rather than exhibit it in the content.
At the heart of AILD is the Bundren family's bizarre journey to Jefferson, to bury Addie, wife and mother. The journey, initiated by Addie's own will, turns into a grotesque procession, during which the family and the coffin are subjected to natural catastrophes like flood and fire, as well as personal misfortunes like injury, abortion, and mental breakdown. As Faulkner lets each family member, including Addie herself, and others along the way, tell the story, they reveal their own separate reasons for undertaking this perilous journey. The tools suggested for the reading of this complex narrative have been many, but whatever the approach taken, whether ideological, linguistic, psychological, structural/aesthetic, feminist, postmodern or generic, it has been read mainly as a failed mourning ritual, conveying a pessimistic message. The elegiac prism I offer, however, exposes Addie Bundren's grotesque funeral procession in this novel as the slow and painful process of the survivors to establish a new relationship to the world following a loss. Reading for the genre, we can see that the creation of consoling tropes has helped all the Bundrens but Darl withdraws their attachments from Addie, and move from grief to consolation.
Anse, the husband, finds comfort in a new pair of teeth, and literally submits to a substitute in the form of a 'duckshaped woman', whom he introduces to his children as the 'new Mrs Bundren'. Vardaman, the youngest, seeks comfort in a promised toy train, and when the toy-train is not there, is ready to settle for bananas. But it is the dead fish, 'all cut up into not-fish now' AILD, 49 (9) that mainly substitutes for Vardaman's dead mother, and through which he attempts to grasp the meaning of her death, and of his own identity. After a painful process of re-mapping himself, and settling for substitutions, Vardaman reaches the moment of revelation in the dark barn (which is the elegiac painful descent into the dark that precedes any revelation) where he can cry, and by so doing release his anger. By the end of the journey Vardaman is already able to say 'I am. Darl is my brother' (90). Dewey Dell's determination to put an end to her pregnancy is a substitutive act of mastery which is to compensate her for her total helplessness at having lost her virginity. Once she has become an agent of change, rather than a victim, she too has her moment of revelation in the dark barn, where she can come to the recognition that: '... when mother died I had to go beyond and outside of me and Lafe and Darl to grieve' (53).
Having realised that mourning is an inter-subjective performance, she can work her loss through, and say at the end of the journey: 'I am Dewey Dell' (53). Cash's consolation is in his precious tool-box, and the making of the coffin, which he fetishises, and turns into an object whose real or fantasised presence is psychologically necessary for his coping with loss, and for sexual gratification. By redirecting their emotions to the coffin, cradling it, embracing it, lying on it, saving it, Addie's children seek to hold on to their mother, and thus prolong her existence not only physically, but mainly psychically. Jewel replaces his mother with a horse, as Vardaman, with his childish intuition, understands--'Jewel's mother is a horse. My mother is a fish' (182). At the end of the journey Anse emerges all shaved and perfumed, with his new gramophone, new teeth, and a new Mrs Bundren, Jewel is sitting with his whole family (except for Darl), on the wagon, no longer the other Bundren on the horse. Cash is there too, in the closing scene, very much interested in the gramophone. His tool-box having fulfilled its function, he is now ready to replace it with a music-box.
The only Bundren who cannot overcome his confusion and come to any conclusion as to what he is, is Darl, because his object choice isnarcissistic. Darl's schizophrenia suggests splitting that takes the form of self objectification. Instead of 'I am', Darl uses the third person in reference to himself, while retaining, in close juxtaposition, the 'I' that makes this reference. Consequently, Darl cannot go beyond and out of himself to mourn. It is for this reason that Faulkner's choice of schizophrenia as Darl's mental disorder is so appropriate, for it is a mental disorder closely linked to solipsism, and as such, bars all possibility for inter-subjectivity, which is a necessary condition for mourning.
AILD articulates Faulkner's debt to the traditional convention of inheritance not only by the book's title, which has its source in 'The Book of the Dead" in the Odyssey (10), and by his deployment of the traditional conventions of the genre. The journey of Addie Bundren's coffin to Jefferson most conspicuously echoes Walt Whitman's 'Carrying a corpse to where it shall rest in the grave / Night and day journeys a coffin', in his elegy for Abraham Lincoln, 'When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd.' (11) I believe that Faulkner's 'journey[ing]' of 'a coffin' 'Night and day' is not only his homage to the inherited codes of mourning expressed in Whitman's elegy and echoed here, but is also another clue to the genre. Though the two journeys to burial seem antithetical, Faulkner receives--or plucks--the 'sprig of lilac' proffered by Whitman, and uses it for his own needs as a post-war writer. AA, the story of a man named Thomas Sutpen, whose most carefully planned 'design' for house, position, and posterity ends in harsh failure, has too frequently been read as a representation of a decomposing world, a negation of life in face of a meaningless universe. Both early critics, who dwelt on Faulkner's obsession with absence and negation, and post-war critics, who started to look for meaning through form, interpreted Sutpen's harsh failure, and the shapelessness of narration, as signifying meaninglessness. I believe that the novel's very title, Absalom, Absalom! directs us to the genre through King David's biblical lament for his absent son (12). Diverting the focus of attention to Faulkner's aesthetic devices, I contend that from the 'wistaria vine' on the very first page, beyond Rosa's 'eternal black' (AA 7) (13), and 'impotent and static rage' (7), and all the way up to 'the wistaria Mississippi summer', on the very last pages, beyond the smoke and fire of Sutpen's collapsing house, loss in this novel is dressed in an abundance of elegiac properties, and that it is in these where the latent affirmative aspect beyond Faulkner's decomposing structure and seemingly dark message lies. The elegiac prism exposes the story of Thomas Sutpen as a frustrated search for substitutes to compensate for the insult suffered by that little boy who had been refused access through the front door of the big plantation house. But for all his substitutions, Sutpen's compensatory plot, and quest to gain mastery over his own life fail. Determined to create a new self out of nothing, Sutpen bars all access to inherited legacies, thus failing to include the survival and transmission of the symbol of power required for the process of mourning. His son, Bon, denied recognition of Sutpen's fatherhood, and of his own blackness, emerges as another failed mourner, for he keeps passively yearning for a substitute, rather than actively creating one. Another attempt to achieve mastery that ends in frustration is Quentin's attempt to tell a story. With Shreve's constant cynical interruptions, Quentin, who insists on the elegiac point of view, cannot even master the story he is trying to tell, and Shreve gradually takes over, and himself occupies the place of the narrator. Most surprisingly, it is Rosa Coldfield who, with all her rage and bitterness, emerges from the elegiac perspective as the most successful mourner. Whereas melancholy, according to Kristeva, is '... pinning [you] down to the ground... compelling [you] to silence, to renunciation' (14), pointing to your 'not knowing how to lose', your having perhaps been 'unable to find a valid compensation for the loss' (15), Rosa writes poetry, and relinquishes painful emotions by giving voice to them in company of a witness. By telling the Sutpen story to Quentin, she not only vents her anger, and alleviates private anguish caused by her frustrated desire for Sutpen, but also turns into a bequeather of South legacy, with Quentin in the role of surrogate son and heir. Telling Quentin the legend of Sutpen places Rosa among Faulkner's symbolical parents, who, like Faulkner, hand down an inherited tradition, since to Faulkner, even 'spinster, maiden and childless aunts' (as he tells the 'stranger' in the last prose passage of RN 215) (16), can fulfil the task of bequeathing the symbol of power to a symbolic successor--an act which is a necessary condition for the achievement of elegiac consolation. My feeling is that though Faulkner foregrounds Rosa's rage, impotence, and 'eternal black', and marginalises her artistic performance, by assigning her the role of 'poetess laureate' and bequeather of Southern legacies, and by putting the most beautiful poetry in her mouth, he is signalling at his own elegiac performance beyond the obvious negativity in the structure, substance, images and language of this novel.
Though the book culminates in the failure of its major characters to become mourners, the attempt made shows that to Faulkner--a less than successful attempt is better than a withdrawal from life. Although full consolation has not been achieved, we can say that a move is made in the text from Rosa's closed, stifling room in the opening scene, to Shreve's open-windowed room, in the closing pages. Requiem for a Nun (RN) tells the story of Temple Drake, whose baby daughter was recently strangled in her crib by her loving negro nursemaid, Nancy Mannigoe, to prevent Temple from running away with the brother of her previous lover. Told in a most intriguing, bifurcated structure of both play and prose history, the book has mainly been read as conveying the message that the past is never past, and that we must accept the responsibility for the evil of the past as our inevitable heritage, and be ready to suffer for it.
Focusing on Faulkner's aesthetic choices in this novel, I suggest reading the drama as the story of Temple Drake's struggle to retain her new identity as Mrs Gowan Stevens, in face of her past and present losses, and the prose passages as a wider American struggle to cope with the loss of its identity as unlimited wilderness through the creation of a new identity, the United States. While the titles of AILD and AA contain an implication of elegy, the title of RN refers explicitly to a particular Christian form of elegy--the Requiem, the Mass of the Dead in the Roman Catholic rites, which is a poetic mourning not only over private and public loss, as in the earlier novels, but extending to a loss that has moral and religious weight. This is sustained also by the drama Faulkner stages, which takes over the Christian elements of the requiem, making confession and judgment of sin the preface to and price of consolation, and thus figures as part of the form. My feeling is that since RN was written after the Second World War, Faulkner's sense of loss in this novel is even stronger than in the earlier ones, and includes also his mourning for the loss of all moral awareness.
While Faulkner certainly makes sure, in this novel, that we do not ignore the existence of requiem, he suppresses Nancy's performances of Christian rituals, and foregrounds Temple's struggle to reintegrate her self through a secular, elegiac practice. The Christian ritual cannot work for Temple since, as she so loudly and clearly tells Nancy, there is no God, and she 'cannot believe'. While Nancy's religious practice is a preparation for death, for, all she's got to do, is, 'just to die', Temple needs a set of practices that will give her access to the reality of this world, so she can cope with her 'tomorrow' in face of loss: 'All you've got to do is, just to die. But let Him tell me what to do. But let Him tell me how. How? Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and still tomorrow. How?' (230). Temple, is therefore in desperate need for another 'technology of self', one that will, like Christian consolation, carry the effect of unwriting one self, and rewriting another. In a most significant act of substitution, she hires Nancy, 'another reformed whore', in an attempt to give her another chance, thus creating an occasion substitutive to those that found her helpless. Hiring Nancy also provides Temple with 'somebody to talk to' (130), 'somebody paid by the week, just to listen' (136).
Another important substitution occurs at the Governor's office, in a scene staged like a trial scene. Yet it is not for the sake of truth that Temple had been summoned to this 'trial', nor for any moral judgment, penance or religious forgiveness, but rather as a substitutive elegiac confrontation that will enable her to 'get it told', and through repetition come to accept loss, a stage metaphorically expressed by her readiness to accept the handkerchief she had so often rejected. Read through the secular mourning 'technology' of rewriting the self, Temple's being forced to the Governor's Office at two o'clock at night is also the painful elegiac descent that precedes any consoling revelation, darkness being an essential element in such a descent. With the collapse of all moral codes, Faulkner's substitute for religious consolation, then, is elegiac consolation.
While the drama opens with 'Temple Drake', and ends with her new identity as 'Mrs Gowan Stevens', the prose open with the wilderness, and close with the new identity created--the United States, and with Faulkner's 'I' ('Listen stranger, this was myself, this was I' (220). The chronicle history of the United States is narrated as a long process of substitutions, a story of 'successive, overlapping generations ... replaced and again replaced' (180), culminating in the new identity created. Reading for the genre, the Courthouse, the Jail, and the Dome emerge as tropes created by civilization to compensate for the loss of the wilderness, the new objects of attachment that enable the mourner to withdraw his affection from the lost object. This process of mourning is successful, for prior to the acts of substitution comes the castrative separation from the original matrix, illustrated in the scene where Old Mohataha, the Indian matriarch, signs the paper that gives away Indian territory, so she can leave the stage and be replaced by the patriarch--the Jail. That Faulkner actually employs the terms matriarch, and patriarch, marks the dramatic movement from female to male figures, the separation from the primary object of desire associated with the mother, and an identification with the father and his symbols of power, which itself is part of the work of mourning. The history of the United States is also narrated as the transmission of symbols, a 'relay race' whereby the symbolic precursor hands over symbolic power to a successor. Such a revision of a legacy passed over by precursors is precisely what I wish to unearth in Faulkner's literary creation. Poetic power, he tells us, has not been lost, but has been transmitted as legacy for all elegiac purposes.
The decision to address Faulkner as a mourner rather than a melancholic, sheds a new light on the abundance of repetitions and refrains, cried out names, and questions that pervade his texts, and marks them as traditional elegiac strategies by which both Faulkner and his characters try to grasp the meaning of loss, voice their protest, set free the energy locked in their grief, and convince themselves of the actual fact of loss. It exposes his mediators and mediations, in the form of different narrators; of legends and hearsay, echoes and shadows, as well as vapour, smoke, dust, mist, curtains, and closed doors, even an actual theatre curtain, as elegiac veils which distance the reader from the events. The many confrontations and division of voices dramatise the splitting strategy, and, like his fictive addressee, the 'you', the 'stranger', the 'outlander' provide the confrontational structure required for the very recognition of loss. The abundance of journeys into the dark, like Henry's descent to New Orleans, the Sutpen family's 'fall' into Tidewater society, and the journey of Sutpen, the boy, to the big plantation house, followed by the revelation he then has in the dark of the woods, mark the painful elegiac descent that precedes significant revelations, whereas the repetitive, ritualistic journeys, belong not only to elegiac repetitions, but even more so to the death and rebirth strategy. The twelve miles to Sutpen's Hundred traversed by Rosa (as a child), once a year, Bon and Henry's seasonal ride from the university every Christmas, or Ellen and Judith's weekly ritual to Jefferson (in AA), mark Faulkner's creating a fiction whereby nature and its changes, occasions of his grief, appear to depend on him, as are the repetitive bi-monthly journey of the pouch-mail, or the hunt for the lost lock (in RN). True, Faulkner repeatedly refers to nature and its courses, as in the appearance, disappearance, and reappearance of the circling buzzards (in AILD), the wistaria wine (in AA), or the sparrows and pigeons (in RN), but while these associate with the traditional images of renewal and resurrection, his repeated conjuring and banishing his characters mark Faulkner's attempt to achieve a psychological reversal of dependence. His playing the 'was-not-is-was' game with his characters, as in 'One day he was not. Then he was. Then he was not' (AA 152), or most conspicuously so with the recurrent fall and rise of the curtain, and the fading and rising of the lights in the theatrical play he stages in RN, is analogous to the child's loss and retrieval game observed by Freud (17). By performing a displaced version of the reversal of mastery found in vegetation rites, Faulkner is reversing man's submission to nature in an attempt to master the experience of abandonment.
The performative aspect I have tried to foreground in these novels is further accentuated by the many allusions to different forms of art, and by the great attention given to the building of the different edifices, the coffin, even the tombstones, but even more so by the carnivalistic aspect of AILD, by Faulkner's insistence on telling the Sutpen story as drama (in AA), and, most openly so by the theatrical play he stages in RN. The ritualistic, ceremonious aspect of the different performances is amplified by elegiac light and dark imagery, spotlighting the scenes whether by the progression of the sun from early dawn, through morning light, midday, twilight, evening, and night, or by artificial light, from total darkness, through match, candle light, flashlight, lantern, lamp, and torch, all reaching their utmost culmination in a big fire. These scenes are further pervaded by sounds--wild, plaintive, mournful, repetitive, sounds of sparrows and church chimes, but mainly human sounds--telling, singing, praying, shouting, screaming, crying, yelling, hollering, laughing madly--marking the elegiac urge for voice. Out of all these Faulkner has intricately woven his textures that meet the reader's eye, with their various typefaces, brackets, quotation marks, ellipses, dashes, empty spaces, numbers, even a drawing (of the coffin) creating his aesthetic compensation, the veil and trope every mourner must invent to give him comfort.
As an artist, Faulkner tells us, he found his own 'technology of self in the act of writing, and as a writer has found the tool in the traditional classical genre, which he here deploys for his own healing purposes.
Austin, J.L. How to Do Things with Words. Harvard University Press, 1962.
Benjamin, Walter.(1969) "The Story Teller". Illuminations. Trans. Harry Zohn and Jonathan Cape. Ed. Hanna Arendt. New York: Schocken Books, 1969. 83-109
Damouri, Joy. The Labor of Loss: Mourning, Memory and Wartime Bereavement in Australia. University of Melbourne, Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Foucault, Michel. "Technologies of the Self. Technologies of the Self. Eds. Luther H. Martin, Huck Gutman & Partick H. Hutton. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1988. 16-50.
Freud, Sigmund. "Beyond the Pleasure Principle". On Metapsychology: The Theory of Psychoanalysis. Trans James Strachey. Ed. Angela Richards. The Pelican Freud Library, Vol.11. Penguin Books, 1985. 269-339.
--. "Mourning and Melancholia". On Metapsychology, Vol. 11. 247-268.
Godden, Richard. Fictions of Labor: William Faulkner and the South's Long Revolution. Cambridge University Press, 1997.
Hinton, John. Dying, Penguin Books, 1967.
Kristeva, Julia. Black Sun: Depression and Melancholia. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989.
Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth. On Death and Dying; What the Dying Have to Teach Doctors, Clergy and Their Own Families. New York: Macmillan, 1969.
Lofland, Lyn H. The Craft of Dying: The Modern Face of Death. Beverly Hills & London: Sage Publications, 1978.
Sacks, Peter M. The English Elegy: Studies on the Genre from Spenser to Yeats. The John Hopkins University Press, 1987.
Seale, Clive. Constructing Death: The Socioligy of Death and Bereavement. Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Shamir, Milette & Jennifer Travis, eds. Boys Don't Cry? Rethinking Narratives of Masculinity and Emotion in the U.S.. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.
Stephenson, John S. Death, Grief and Mourning: Individual and Social Realities. London: Collier Macmillan, 1985.
(1) David Rigsbee, Styles of Ruin: Joseph Brodsky and the Postmodernist Elegy (1999)
(2) Post war literature set out on a difficult course in face of the actuality of the First and Second World Wars, as men, to use the words of Walter Benjamin, have returned from the battlefields "poorer in communicable experience", having lost "the ability to exchange experiences' ("The Story Teller" in Illuminations, pp. 83-109. here p. 84). American symbolic means, says Julia Kristeva in Black Sun, were 'paralyzed, nearly wiped out, hollowed out' (p. 223), and the feeling was that in the presence of so much horror, silence alone was appropriate. 'The war', says Kristeva, 'brutalized consciousness through an outburst of death and madness that no barrier, be it ideological or aesthetic, seemed to contain it any longer, and silence seemed like the only response' (pp. 222-3)
(3) According to Freud's "Mourning and Melancholy" (in On Metapsychology: The Theory of Psychoanalysis (1985), Vol. 11, pp. 247-268), the symptoms of a melancholic response to loss are mainly passivity, turning away from reality, and loss of interest in the outside world. The successful mourner, however, is one who does not turn his or her back on reality, or lose interest in the outside world, but performs a conscious, active 'work of mourning', by which to carry out, gradually, the withdrawal of attachment from the lost love object. Performing a life-serving, death-defying act of mourning, the successful mourner gains normal respect for a reality in which the love object no longer exists. According to Freud, one must first establish a stable concept of self, in essence, one must mourn the notion of separation, before being able to recognise and to mourn another.
(4) My terminology and references to 'performative' utterances is based on J. L. Austin's How to Do Things with Words, (1962).
(5) Michel Foucault, 'Technologies of the Self', in Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault (1988), pp. 16-50.
(6) See John Hinton, Dying (1967); Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, On Death and Dying: What the Dying have to Teach Doctors, Clergy and Their own Families (1969); Lyn H. Lofland, The Craft of Dying, The Modern Face of Death (1978). Joy Damouri; Nicholas Rand, 'Introduction' to Nicholas Abraham and Maria Torok, The Shell and the Kernel: Renewals of Psychoanalysis (1994); Richard Godden, Fictions of Labor: William Faulkner and the South's Long Revolution (1997); Clive Seale, Constructing Death: The Sociology of Death and Bereavement (1998), and The Labor of Loss: Mourning, Memory and Wartime Bereavement in Australia (1999).
(7) See John S. Stephenson, Death, Grief and Mourning: Individual and Social Realities, 1985.
(8) See Milette Shamir and Jennifer Travis's, Boys Don't Cry? Rethinking Narratives of Masculinity and Emotion in the U.S. (2002).
(9) William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (New York: Vintage Books, 1987). All page references will be to this edition.
(10) The title's probable source is the speech of Agamemnon to Odysseus in Book XI of the Odyssey, where Agamemnon complains of the unfulfilled mortuary customs that left him unreleased by culture into peaceful death: 'I, as I lay dying \ Upon the sword, raised up my hands to smite her, \ And shamelessly she turned away, and scorned \ To draw my eyelids down or close my mouth \ Though I was on the road to Hades' house.' The theme of necessary death rites claims descent from the tragic heroism of Homer, Virgil and Antigone, where the fallen must be given proper ceremonies or else remain balefully 'undead', an outrage to gods and mortals.
(11) Walt Whitman, 'When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd'. The American Tradition in Literature 970, lines 31-2).
(12) The title Absalom, Absalom! finds its source in King David's cry of loss over his rebellious son: 'O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!', II Samuel 18: 33.
(13) William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom! (Vintage Books, 1972). All page references will be to this edition.
(14) Julia Kristeva, Black Sun: Depression and Melancholia (1989), p. 3.
(15) Ibid., p. 5.
(16) Faulkner, William. Requiem for a Nun (Penguin Books, 1961). All page references will be to this edition.
(17) To explain the procedure of the elegy and the mythology that underlies the genre, it is important to understand Freud's interpretation of the child's fort-da game in 'Beyond the Pleasure Principle', by which the child comes to 'master' his mother's absences. The child's game is regarded as a primitive form of mourning, which comes to terms with the otherness, and with the absence of a love object, and can therefore serve to explain the acts of substitution and mastery, and elucidate the need for linguistic substitution.
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