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For writers, to return to being requires a higher plunge than average. Should they choose to forgo perseverance, which can be extraordinarily painful, the means at their disposal are silence—the death of the writer in the person—or suicide—the death of the writer through the death of the person. Because of it, whatever the particular fates of individual writers, the two can never be wholly separated.

The Negative Eschatology of Maurice Blanchot by Kevin S. Fitzgerald

In America, suicide tends to be viewed as a psychological or sociological phenomenon, that is, in terms of concepts like depression, mental illness, anomie, egoism, social ostracism, self-consciousness, boredom. Whereas the French, even though they gave us Durkheim, are also capable of understanding the phenomenon metaphysically, in terms of being, representation, consciousness, absurdity, fate. Each approach treats the word meaninglessness in the phrase meaninglessness of life differently.

A psychological approach treats it normatively, as a question of value or significance, and is therefore relatively optimistic that individuals can change their condition, that the pain of living may be eradicated. A metaphysical approach, by contrast, treats meaninglessness purely in terms of signification. It is therefore pessimistic in so far as the relationship between human beings and language, and language and the world, are fixed aspects of la condition humaine.

The conflation of these two senses of meaninglessness is what makes suicide, properly speaking, a philosophical problem — rather than merely a practical issue. Regardless of the means more or less violent, more or less stylized, etc. More than any other act, suicide stands in need of an explanation. Criminals have the details of their crimes extracted from them, and runaways often leave a letter, but suicide combines and transcends these, for it is perceived as both a crime and a kind of running away from home—though the escape and therefore the crime is metaphysical.

But suicide is precisely the gesture that causes problems for interpretation. Or rather, it reveals in extremis the hermeneutical problems that are always already there. Only with a suicide is death truly an action, but it is the only act that removes its author from the space of reasons, from the possibility of further questioning. Can we really say of a suicide note that there is nothing outside the text?

Can we really say with a straight face that the intentional fallacy applies here? But in that case, what is it?

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An infelicitous performance of a statement of intention? The action that would give these words meaning is precisely the act that makes it impossible to know what was really meant by them. No matter how long it is, a suicide note always seems to be one sentence too short; suicide notes are readerly texts, indeed the most readerly of all texts, which is what gives them their particular horror. Which in turn would make the suicide itself, not to mention the life it was supposed to end, impossible. Which in turn would make it not a suicide note… The person who is compelled to justify his life or his death with reasons is perhaps the least enviable of all, for he neither truly lives nor manages to kill himself.

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These difficulties only multiply when the suicide happens to be a writer. Suicide itself may be a kind of literary genre, but it is not obvious which one. In case of a note.

Who is its author? The person who commits suicide or the writer in the person?

European Journal of Scandinavian Studies

Does this simple sentence say what it seems to mean — in which case why was it written at all? Compare the case of the actor: Richard Burbage is not suicidal, even if he says he is while playing Hamlet. Author McNulty, Niall. Metadata Show full item record. Abstract Space can be read through text. Space is also constructed through text.

Literary and critical theory has, however, emphasised time over space. However, space, place and location are crucial determining factors in any literary study. Through reference to theories of construction of place as well as writings on spatial history and the city I will discuss how place is created through text and how the urban environment affects literary production. Using the work of Michel Foucault , on space and power, Michel de Certeau's approach to cities and WaIter Benjamin's theories on space, time and the city, as well as South African theoretical approaches to space and the city, I will attempt an analysis of place in chosen pieces of literature set in the postapartheid city by selected writers.


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I have chosen to focus on the cities of Durban and Johannesburg, and in particular the innercities, because it is here that major transformation in the use and representation of space has occurred. By looking at selected apartheid and postapartheid texts I will be able to analyse how the representation of literary space has altered with political and socio-economic changes. The time period I will look at primarily will be the postapartheid period.


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The interdisciplinary nature of this project means I will draw from literary criticism, critical theory, geography, sociology and economic history as well as elements of postcolonial and postmodem theory. The South African city today is a post-city; postcolonial and postapartheid.