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Dying for Time

Dying for Time

Proust, Woolf, Nabokov

Martin Hägglund

ISBN 9780674066328

Publication date: 10/30/2012

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Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf, and Vladimir Nabokov transformed the art of the novel in order to convey the experience of time. Nevertheless, their works have been read as expressions of a desire to transcend time—whether through an epiphany of memory, an immanent moment of being, or a transcendent afterlife. Martin Hägglund takes on these themes but gives them another reading entirely. The fear of time and death does not stem from a desire to transcend time, he argues. On the contrary, it is generated by the investment in temporal life. From this vantage point, Hägglund offers in-depth analyses of Proust’s Recherche, Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, and Nabokov’s Ada.

Through his readings of literary works, Hägglund also sheds new light on topics of broad concern in the humanities, including time consciousness and memory, trauma and survival, the technology of writing and the aesthetic power of art. Finally, he develops an original theory of the relation between time and desire through an engagement with Freud and Lacan, addressing mourning and melancholia, pleasure and pain, attachment and loss. Dying for Time opens a new way of reading the dramas of desire as they are staged in both philosophy and literature.

Praise

  • The Swedish philosopher and literary scholar Martin Hägglund has swiftly established himself at the center of some of today’s most lively intellectual debates… Dying for Time delivers a revolutionary reading of the ways in which modernist writers express elemental aspects of human existence. In the process, it disproves the idea that deconstruction—or, indeed, literary theory per se—is always off-puttingly arid and abstract. Hägglund’s approach is absolutely the opposite… This is a book that brings literature and theory into forceful collision with life’s underlying realities. The resulting insight is resolutely atheistic: neither art nor thought allows access to another world of timeless perfection. Instead, each is irreducibly interwoven with the world in which we live. Some say that literary theory is dead, out of fashion, a thing of the past. But Hägglund shows how it can and should go on living: in unflinching fidelity to how it feels to be human.

    —David Winters, Los Angeles Review of Books

Author

  • Martin Hägglund is Professor of Comparative Literature and Humanities at Yale University.

Book Details

  • 208 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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