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Last Things: Essays on Ends and Endings


Gavin Hopps, Stella Neumann, Sven Strasen and Peter Wenzel

This multidisciplinary collection brings together scholars from the fields of literature, theology and linguistics who question and extend our taken-for-granted conceptions of The End. It focuses on the ways in which endings are formally signaled in literature, and sets these alongside parallel studies in journalism and film. However, it is also concerned with larger philosophical and historical notions of closure, impermanence, rupture and apocalypse as well as the possibilities of «posthumous» being. It gives examples from fairytales, Byron, Longfellow, Dillard, Barnes and South African writers.
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Introduction: Gavin Hopps, Trevor Hart, and Peter Wenzel


Gavin Hopps, Trevor Hart, and Peter Wenzel

In “The Voice of Poetry in the Conversation of Mankind,” the political philosopher Michael Oakeshott argues that “the diverse idioms of utterance which make up current human intercourse have some meeting-place and compose a manifold of some sort.” The image of this meeting place, he suggests, “is not an inquiry or an argument, but a conversation.” Here is how he describes that conversation:

In a conversation the participants are not engaged in an inquiry or a debate; there is no “truth” to be discovered, no proposition to be proved, no conclusion sought. They are not concerned to inform, to persuade, or to refute one another, and therefore the cogency of their utterances does not depend upon their all speaking in the same idiom; they may differ without disagreeing. Of course, a conversation may have passages of argument and a speaker is not forbidden to be demonstrative; but reasoning is neither sovereign nor alone, and the conversation itself does not compose an argument. […] Thoughts of different species take wing and play round one another, responding to each other’s movements and provoking one another to fresh exertions. […] Every entrant is taken at its face-value and everything is permitted which can get itself accepted into the flow of speculation. And voices which speak in conversation do not compose a hierarchy. […] Properly speaking, it is impossible in the absence of a diversity of voices: in it different universes of discourse meet, acknowledge each...

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