"To talk (why?) with mute ash": Models of mourning in Anne Carson's elegies
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The model for human desire that classicist and poet Anne Carson lays out in Eros the Bittersweet also serves as a model for the state of mourning—a state in which her speakers exist in elegies “Appendix to Ordinary Time” and Nox. In these two texts, mourning is an eroticized and inexorable space buzzing with desire; mourner and mourned are bound together, yet eternally separate. Eros is what Carson calls the force that divides and binds, but in mourning the edge between Eros and Thanatos is porous. In this thesis, I read Carson’s development of the idea of mourning as an eroticized space in the context of Jacques Derrida’s aporias of mourning. According to Derrida, such an eroticized space is an inevitable inclination for the mourner, but it is problematic because it denies the radical alterity of the person who died. A mourning that focuses solely on the mourned, however, denies that the dead, or their unalterably “other” images, live on in those who mourn. In her elegies, Carson uses her understanding of “the unlost,” the idea that that which is preserved is inseparable from the loss that is its necessary counterpart, as a means to navigate some of these aporias through bricolage methods such as intertext and fragmentation. In so doing, she creates “found epitaphs” that both mourner and mourned inhabit—new spaces in which aporetic mourning work can occur.