Eros in Mourning
From Homer to Lacan
Eros in Mourning begins with a reading of the Iliad that shows how Homer, not yet influenced by the ideology of transcendence, analyzes the structure of unassuageable mourning in a way that is as up-to-date as the latest poststructuralism. Then, in readings of Dante, Hamlet, La Princess de Clèves, Heart of Darkness, and Lacan, Staten depicts the "thanato-erotic" hysteria that is set off by the specter of the dead and decomposing body that is also the body of sexual love and which, in the "transcendentalizing" tradition, is more female than male. Yet, St. John, certain troubadours, and Milton offer glimpses of a more affirmative relation to "eros in mourning."
About the Author
Henry Staten is a professor of English and comparative literature and adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Washington. He is the author of Wittgenstein and Derrida and Nietzsche's Voice.
Eros in Mourning situates Jacques Lacan in the thanatoerotophobic tradition of misogyny. Luminous and erudite textual-historical analyses ofthe European tradition from Homer to Conrad perform the task. On this trajectory, Staten opens up Plato and Courtly Love, Hamlet and ParadiseLost, Dante and Madame de Lafayette in new ways. A compelling and brilliant book.
At the end of Henry Staten's breathtaking Eros in Mourning we are left to stare blindly into the awesome face of that which is said to transfix the canonical avatars of Western man from the grieving hero Akhilleus (Achilles) in Homer's Iliad to the death-driven psychoanalyst in The Seminar of Jacques Lacan... A splendid series of readings.
Staten is at his most astonishing when he illustrates how texts that on the manifest level appear to advocate an idealizing preservation of the self, on a latent one advocate a radical embrace of mortality and an absolute expenditure of the self.
Each chapter is a tour de force of its own. The chapter on Christianity alone, with its extraordinary Nietzschean affirmation of the figure of Christ, tells more than a whole bag of the usual cultural studies! If you did not read this book, don't say you were not warned what you are missing!
Eros in Mourning is a brilliant, precisely, powerfully, and passionately argued analysis of the structure of mourning fundamental to Western transcendental thinking. Staten is a superb reader, engaging us in levels of his texts that make it clear why they earned canonical status.
Eros in Mourning offers the groundwork for a new poetics, which we can confidently call a poetics of mourning.
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