Death and Tenses: Posthumous Presence in Early Modern France

Hardcover | January 16, 2016

byNeil Kenny

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In what tense should we refer to the dead? The question has long been asked, from Cicero to Julian Barnes. Answering it is partly a matter of grammar and stylistic convention. But the hesitation, annoyance, even distress that can be caused by the "wrong" tense suggests that more may be atstake - our very relation to the dead. This book, the first to test that hypothesis, investigates how tenses were used in sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century France (especially in French but also in Latin) to refer to dead friends, lovers, family members, enemies, colleagues, writers,officials, kings and queens of recent times, but also to those who had died long before, whether Christ, the saints, or the ancient Greeks and Romans who posthumously filled the minds of Renaissance humanists. Did tenses refer to the dead in ways that contributed to granting them differing degreesof presence (and absence)? Did tenses communicate dimensions of posthumous presence (and absence) that partly eluded more concept-based affirmations? The investigation ranges from funerary and devotional writing to Eucharistic theology, from poetry to humanist paratexts, from Rabelais's prosefiction to Montaigne's Essais. Primarily a work of literary and cultural history, it also draws on early modern grammatical thought and on modern linguistics (with its concept of aspect and its questioning of 'tense'), while arguing that neither can fully explain the phenomena studied. The book briefly compares early modern usagewith tendencies in modern French and English in the West, asking whether changes in belief about posthumous survival have been accompanied by changes in tense-use.

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In what tense should we refer to the dead? The question has long been asked, from Cicero to Julian Barnes. Answering it is partly a matter of grammar and stylistic convention. But the hesitation, annoyance, even distress that can be caused by the "wrong" tense suggests that more may be atstake - our very relation to the dead. This book...

Neil Kenny, FBA, is Professor of French at the University of Oxford and Senior Research Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford. Previously he taught French at the University of Cambridge and at Queen Mary University of London, having been a Frances A. Yates Fellow at the Warburg Institute. He has written extensively on early modern litera...
Format:HardcoverDimensions:304 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.98 inPublished:January 16, 2016Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198754035

ISBN - 13:9780198754039

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Inescapable TensePart I: Tense, Death, Survival1. Modern Tenses for the Dead: Towards a Sketch2. The Historiographical Regime of Disentanglement3. Surviving Death in the Early Modern Period4. Early Modern Tenses for the DeadPart II: Dying, Burying, Mourning: Tense and Ritual5. Tense and Ritual6. Christ, the Saints, Meditation7. The Eucharist8. From Funeral Sermon to Coronation9. Epitaphs10. Consolation LiteraturePart III: Discursive Remains11. Actions12. Spoken Words13. Written WordsPart IV: Authors14. Rabelais15. MontaigneConclusion