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Download Last Words: Variations on a Theme in Cultural History by Karl S. Guthke PDF

By Karl S. Guthke

This tongue-in-cheek e-book on final phrases is chock filled with fun anecdotes embedded in a scrumptious froth of ironic statement in regards to the grand cultural implications of death-bed utterances. I supply the publication 3 stars just because it truly is intended to be a moderate, dilettante paintings with all of the airiness (and tastiness) of a souffle. when you are trying to find a few pleasant bed-time studying, this is often the publication for you.

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Iago, certain that he is about to be brought to justice, abides by his vow, “From this time forth I never will speak word” (line 310), thereby depriving himself of the last word that might change the destination of the soul, even in his case, which the ars moriendi would see as an analogue to the thief on the cross. Othello stages his death in self-parody, depriving it of whatever dignity, not to mention prospect of redemption, it might otherwise have had. Concerned, like Hamlet, with his image in this world, he dictates his own epitaph, adding: And say besides that in Aleppo once, Where a malignant and a turbaned Turk LAST WORDS IN EVERYDAY CULTURE 45 Beat a Venetian and traduced the state, I took by th’ throat the circumcisèd dog And smote him thus.

I do wish our great men would quit saying these flat things just at the moment they die. Let us have their next-to-the-last words for a while, and see if we cannot patch up from them something that will be more satisfactory. 92 Mark Twain’s iconoclastic reaction—just like his parody in A Tramp Abroad, where last words are prepared with great care before a duel93—of course only succeeds in pointing to the undeniable and unchangeable fact that in our civilization it is the last word and not the next-to-last word that carries weight; that it is the last word which is surrounded by the aura of the significant, that is treated with the awe and reverence that a “Last Will and Testament” will not necessarily enjoy, even if it does account for the best bed, as Shakespeare’s does not.

But, saying nothing about this, he called for my sister Lily and began dictating a novel to her. ” In fact, without ceasing to paint, he became a writer, and all in the natural course of things; but what force of life the story represented, the force that kept him in his adventurous exile so buoyant and so bountiful and, as he said, so cheerful and full of hope. ”82 It is not hard to see the intellectual horizon of such biographical attention to the verbal conclusion of a life. 83 Yet biographical theory is still faced with the task of refining this insight with a view to the revealing nature of the last word; the formula familiar from both antiquity and saints’ lives, “As in life, so in death,” while relevant, is a bit crude.

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