The death of definition, an investigation into the relationship between attitudes toward afterlife and the art of storytelling

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Scoles, John
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Using Walter Benjamin's essay "The Storyteller," as a starting point, I have endeavored to explain exactly what Benjamin meant when he wrote that "death authorizes storytelling." Using representative works from the Medieval, Romantic and Modernist periods, I have charted an important shift in storytelling strategies based upon the conflict between metaphoric and metonymic views of the death-event. Another way of explaining this shift might be to say that whereas Medieval storytelling focused on the relationship between God and endings, Romantic and Modernist storytelling methods highlight the human imagination and propose the "saving" grace of the work of art. while this study indicates a progression toward a metonymic view of death--that is, a view that precludes the possibility of an afterlife--it would be imprudent to suggest that the "death of definition" is any less cyclical than nature. The search for the limits of literary possibility as a metaphorical product of basic human thought systems that emerge from our sense of mortality is an ongoing process characterized by individual belief. Death translates each of our lives into one chapter in an unending story. Thus, this study can only be a perpetual work-in-progress.