The Penultimate End: Intermediate States between Life and Death from E.A. Poe to Today

Petricola, Mattia (2019) The Penultimate End: Intermediate States between Life and Death from E.A. Poe to Today, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Studi letterari e culturali, 31 Ciclo. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsdottorato/9048.
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This research starts from the observation that the cultural construction of the category ‘living dead’ does not usually account for a particularly interesting area of western literary and artistic productions from the mid-18th century to the present day. This area is inhabited by characters, worlds, and narratives that not only destabilize a binary opposition crucial to human identity by blurring the border between life and death; they also do so outside the traditional taxonomy that frames living-dead identities themselves (ghosts, vampires, zombies, mummies, ghouls and a very few others). This work aims to chart this periphery of the thanatological imagination and trace its emergence from the cultural processes that have redefined the life-death boundary from the half of the XVIII century to the present day. In order to do so, it focuses on a corpus of novels, short stories and films from the North Atlantic world that force us to reconsider how intermediate states between life and death can be represented in fiction, from Poe’s Valdemar to Kafka’s The Hunter Gracchus, from Dick’s Ubik to Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. After an introductory section, in which these texts are defined as the members of an ad-hoc category called ‘residual states between life and death’ (r.s.), I propose a cultural genealogy of r.s. by discussing a corpus of medical texts. I then move on to show how technologies and media shape the semiotics of residual states in science-fiction texts; how the in-between zones separating life from death are constructed in spatial terms; and how such zones can become a crucial site for the redefinition of both the immanent and the divine, for the mise en fiction of the process of dying, and for questioning our ideas of self and realism.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Petricola, Mattia
Dottorato di ricerca
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Parole chiave
living dead; thanatology; speculative fiction; thematics; cultural history
Data di discussione
1 Aprile 2019

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