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Last Things: Essays on Ends and Endings

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Edited By 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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A History of Anthony in 3 ½ Endings: History, Memory, and Fabulation in Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending: Julia Vaeßen and Sven Strasen (Aachen)

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Julia Vaeßen and Sven Strasen (Aachen)

Abstract

Combining an analysis of an individual (literary) text and the role of ends and endings for humans on a wider scale, this chapter investigates the notion of closure in Julian Barnes’s novel The Sense of an Ending as well as its implications for the human need for closure in general from a cognitive point of view. The results are also illustrated with reference to Barnes’s earlier work.

For anyone working on a research project on ends and endings in literature and culture, it is certainly a gift if a novel called The Sense of an Ending wins the Booker Prize. We have to admit that initially our decision to take a closer look at Barnes’s novel was based on little more than this happy coincidence. It turned out, however, that the text not only displays almost all of the features our preliminary findings in the project had led us to expect (cf. Wenzel’s chapter in this volume), but it does so in a way that is highly instructive on a theoretical level. Therefore, the present chapter has a double focus. On the one hand, it provides an analysis of how Barnes uses techniques of closure to create specific communicative and aesthetic effects. On the other hand, endings are, of course, a major theme of this novel, and what it has to say about this subject in the literary mode is well worth taking seriously in a...

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