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The Final Crossing

Death and Dying in Literature


Edited By John J. Han and Clark C. Triplett

Since ancient times, writers and poets have grappled with death, dying, grief, and mourning in their works. The Final Crossing: Death and Dying in Literature compiles fifteen in-depth, scholarly, and original essays on death and dying in literature from around the globe and from different time periods. Written from a variety of critical perspectives, the essays target both scholars and serious students. Death and dying is an important area of study for a variety of disciplines, including psychology, psychiatry, sociology, gerontology, medical ethics, healthcare science, health law, and literary studies. The Final Crossing is a landmark compendium of academic essays on death and dying in literary texts, such as the Iliad, Ḥayy ibn Yaqẓān, Hamlet, The Secret Garden, and The Grapes of Wrath. This collection of essays not only brings an international flavor, but also a unique angularity to the discourse on thanatology. The novelty of perspectives reflects the diverse cultural and intellectual backgrounds of the contributors. This diversity opens up a fresh conversation on a number of age-old questions related to «the final crossing.» In this volume, readers will find an intriguing array of topics for further reflection and research.
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Chapter Eleven: Death and Dying as Literary Devices in Brite’s Exquisite Corpse and Palahniuk’s Damned


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Death AND Dying AS Literary Devices IN Brite’s Exquisite Corpse AND Palahniuk’s Damned


Chuck Palahniuk and Poppy Z. Brite are considered transgressional postmodernist fiction writers. The former is known for his minimalist style and his volunteer work with terminally ill patients. The latter is a figure of American underground Gothic literature using splatterpunk fiction, i.e., horror novels that explore desolate characters. Indeed, in Exquisite Corpse (1996), the necrophiliac and serial killer Andrew Compton expresses as an art his need to kill, to master the others’ deaths through murder and torture. In Damned (2011), Madison, a thirteen-year-old girl, plans to convey the exact sensation of being dead; in Hell, she is dying to meet a nice guy who knows a lot about demonic anthropology, so she crosses a desert made of dead skin, wasted sperm, beetles, centipedes, fire ants, earwigs, wasps, and spiders. Thus, humor is one of the ways to face death in the book and one of the means the text has found to cope with the unnameable and intolerable end.

Exquisite Corpse embraces a poisonous violent logic, while Damned offers a somewhat humorous treatment of death. Both novels deal with death and rotting corpses. Faced with this morbid universe, the reader might appear as the unwanted witness of a taboo territory. How can the reader handle such encounters? Why do writers write (about) death? Is Chuck Palahniuk trying to mourn the...

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