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By Sandra M. Gilbert

The main complete multidisciplinary contemplation of mortality we're more likely to get. -Thomas Lynch, manhattan occasions ebook ReviewProminent critic, poet, and memoirist Sandra M. Gilbert explores our courting to loss of life notwithstanding literature, background, poetry, and societal practices. Does loss of life change;and if it does, how has it replaced within the final century? and the way have our reports and expressions of grief replaced? Did the traumas of Hiroshima and the Holocaust remodel our brooding about mortality? extra lately, did the disaster of Sept. 11 modify our modes of mourning? And are there even as points of grief that hardly swap from age to age? Seneca wrote, "Anyone can cease a man's existence yet not anyone his loss of life; 1000 doorways open directly to it." This inevitability has left various marks on all human cultures. Exploring expressions of religion, burial customs, photos, poems, and memoirs, acclaimed writer Sandra M. Gilbert brings to the subject of demise the severe ability that received her reputation for The Madwoman within the Attic and different books, as she examines either the changelessness of grief and the altering customs that mark modern mourning. 25 illustrations

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22 Nor is a silent ghost less dangerously seductive. Even if the "black tele­ phone" is off the hook, even if the "calling" seems to cease, the plausibility of the dead one draws the mourner like a magnet, as Plath imagines herself 12 S A N D RA M . G I L B E RT to have been urged "back, back, back" at the time of her first suicide attempt. Dead King Hamlet is speechless at first, until his distraught son cries, "Whither wilt thou lead me? " Haunting his lost wife's child­ hood home in Cornwall, Hardy echoes the Danish prince, as he picks his way, half blinded, among the misty moors and cliffs of the past, writing in ''After a Journey": Hereto I come to view a voiceless ghost; Whither, 0 whither will its whim now draw me.

Are you happy with what we have? My sons worked very hard this year so we could offer you this feast, as usual. Tell me, how is Saint Joseph? " 1 8 And though our own society lacks such an institutionalized ceremony, countless North American grievers no doubt construct comparable rituals of intimacy with the dead. " She would tell her mother " 'how we missed her: " this aggrieved young woman explained, and "how we hoped she was resting in peace:' but " 'Now we come to find out she wasn't. ' "19 Of 10 S A N D RA M .

Perhaps it was Plath's early, traumatic loss of her own father-or perhaps, even more likely, it was what evidently became her embittering intimacy with her own mother's mourning-that caused this acolyte of the thesaurus and the dictionary to focus the piece (simply enti­ tled "Widow") so intensely on the dreadful etymology of the very word we use to define a woman whose husband has died. "Widow. "3 "Wid" or widh 0 is what she must have been think­ ing of. And thinking too that widh leads to the French vide, meaning "empty;' or indeed, in an English word that chimes with it, "void.

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