Death and Dying in Literature
Edited By John J. Han and Clark C. Triplett
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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