Dialectics of Mourning

Angelaki 20 (4):179-192 (2015)
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Abstract

In this paper, I look at three different perspectives on mourning in recent European thought. First, I consider Freud's discussion in “Mourning and Melancholia” and other writings. Next, I look at Roland Barthes, whose book on photography, Camera Lucida, is itself a work of mourning for his late mother; and Jacques Derrida, who in Memoires for Paul de Man and The Work of Mourning memorializes departed friends and describes the ambiguities of mourning that constrain us. I argue that Freud was mistaken: mourning is not structured in terms of investment and loss. Barthes and Derrida clarify the complexities of mourning, but mourning is intractable and resists all sublimation: It is for the self, but it is also for the departed, who is neither “present” nor “absent” in the ordinary sense of these terms. Hanging on and letting go are both inappropriate responses to bereavement – how then should we mourn?

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References found in this work

For what tomorrow: a dialogue.Jacques Derrida - 2004 - Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press. Edited by Elisabeth Roudinesco.
The Work of Mourning.Jacques Derrida - 2001 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Edited by Pascale-Anne Brault & Michael Naas.
The hour of our death.Philippe Ariès - 1981 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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