: Hell in Contemporary Literature: Western Descent Narratives Since 1945 (9780748634439) : Rachel Falconer : Books
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Hell In Contemporary Literature: Western Descent Narratives Since 1945

by Rachel Falconer
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
  • Publishing date: 20080201
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780748634439
  • ISBN: 0748634436


What does it mean when people use the word 'Hell' to convey the horror of an actual, personal or historical experience?

This book explores the idea that modern, Western secular cultures have retained a belief in the concept of Hell as an event or experience of endless or unjust suffering. In the contemporary period, the descent to Hell has come to represent the means of recovering - or discovering - selfhood.

In exploring these ideas, this book discusses descent journeys in Holocaust testimony and fiction, memoirs of mental illness, and feminist, postmodern and postcolonial narratives written after 1945. A wide range of texts are discussed, including writing by Primo Levi, W.G. Sebald, Anne Michaels, Alasdair Gray, and Salman Rushdie, and films such as Coppola's Apocalypse Now and the Matrix trilogy. Drawing on theoretical writing by Bakhtin, Levinas, Derrida, Judith Butler, David Harvey and Paul Ricoeur, the book addresses such broader theoretical issues as: narration and identity; the ethics of the subject; trauma and memory; descent as sexual or political dissent; the interrelation of realism and fantasy; and Occidentalism and Orientalism.


*Defines and discusses what constitutes Hell in contemporary secular Western cultures

*Relates ideas from psychoanalysis to literary traditions ranging from Virgil and Dante to the present

*Explores the concept of Hell in relation to crises in Western thought and identity. e.g. distortions of global capitalism, mental illness, war trauma and incarceration

*Explains the significance of this narrative tradition of a 'descent to hell' in the immediate political context of 9/11 and its aftermath


Introduction Descent and Return: the katabatic imagination Chapter 1 - Hell in Our Time (i) Is Hell a fable? (ii) Hell as the modern condition (iii) Descent and dissent in modern philosophy Chapter 2 - Chronotopes of Hell (i) Generic features of katabatic narrative (ii) Bakhtin's Inferno: visionary versus historical chronotopes (iii) Unspeakable wisdom (iv) Conversion versus inversion (v) Infernal inversion: Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano (vi) The absolute and 'my absolute': Sarah Kofman's Smothered Words Chapter 3 - Auschwitz as Hell (i) Pathways through a life: The Search for Roots (ii) Black Holes and the biblical Job (iii) A constellation of chronotopes: If This is a Man (a) Threshold crossing into Hell (b) Auschwitz as education (c) The visionary world (d) On trial in Hell (e) Sea-voyage and shipwreck (iv) The intersection of pathways Chapter 4 - Surviving with Ghosts: Second Generation Holocaust Narratives (i) Bog-boys and fire-children (ii) Vertigo and luminosity: W.G. Sebald's Austerlitz (iii) From depth to ascent: Anne Michaels' Fugitive Pieces Chapter 5 - Katabatic Memoirs of Mental Illness (i) Down the rabbit hole (ii) Parallel worlds and protest culture: Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted (iii) The schizophrenic HyperReal: Carol North's Welcome, Silence,/i> (iv) Falling into grace: Lauren Slater's Spasm: A Memoir with Lies Chapter 6 - Engendering Dissent in the Underworld (i) Gender dynamics in the descent to Hell (ii) Inside the hero's descent: Gloria Naylor's Linden Hills (iii) Hell and utopia: Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time (iv) Dante upside-down: Alice Notley's The Descent of Alette Chapter 7 - Postmodern Hell and the Search for Roots (i) Karl Marx's katabasis (ii) Postmodern capitalist Hell: Alasdair Gray's Lanark (iii) Lanark's search for roots (iv) Can realism lead fantasy out of Hell? Can fantasy help realism? Chapter 8 - East-West Descent Narratives (i) Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now and Western descents to the East (ii) Salman Rushdie's disoriented subjects (iii) The migrations of Orpheus, in five acts: Rushdie's The Ground Beneath Her Feet (a) Threshold crossing (b) Ground Zero (c) Looking back (d) Dismemberment (e) Return of another Epilogue - Katabasis in the Twenty-First Century (i) September 11th: the first circle (ii) Afghanistan and Iraq: there and back again (again) (iii) Global fear and its inversions Appendix: Primo Levi, 'Map of reading' Bibliography Index

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