Death and Tenses: Posthumous Presence in Early Modern France (Paperback)

Death and Tenses: Posthumous Presence in Early Modern France By Neil Kenny Cover Image

Death and Tenses: Posthumous Presence in Early Modern France (Paperback)

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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, and even distress that can be caused by the "wrong" tense suggests that more may be at stake--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, and 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 degrees of 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 prose fiction 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 usage with 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.
Neil Kenny, All Souls College, University of Oxford, Professor of French 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 literature, thought, and culture, especially in France. His previous books include The Uses of Curiosity in Early Modern France and Germany (OUP, 2004) and An Introduction to Sixteenth-Century French Literature and Thought: Other Times, Other Places (London: Duckworth, now Bloomsbury, 2008).
Product Details ISBN: 9780198831150
ISBN-10: 0198831153
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Publication Date: November 1st, 2020
Pages: 304
Language: English