Trim: 6¼ x 9⅜
978-1-4985-4393-4 • Hardback • June 2018 • $111.00 • (£85.00)
978-1-4985-4395-8 • Paperback • August 2020 • $44.99 • (£35.00)
978-1-4985-4394-1 • eBook • June 2018 • $39.50 • (£30.00)
Jackie Elam teaches part-time at Scripps College and CalArts.
Chase Pielak is lecturer of English at Auburn University.
Introduction - Representing the Dead
Chapter One - Preparations
Chapter Two - Only Half in Love: The Loved One, Forest Lawn, and Traditional Burial
Chapter Three - The Green Corpse and Beckett’s Trilogy
Chapter Four - The Phoenix and the Corpse: Transformation by Fire
Chapter Five - Museums, Mummies, and The Jewel of Seven Stars
Chapter Six - Corpse Consumption: The Postmodern Corpse
Afterword - Dead Ends
At the end of William Blake's The Book of Thel, an otherworldly Thel runs in horror away from her own grave site and, ostensibly, her own corpse, choosing instead to return to a place free from the rot and experience of death. Unlike Thel, readers of Corpse Encounters will "face the face of death" and be transfixed. From material disintegration to ritual production, the dead body ultimately emerges in this work as an aesthetic locus for where meaning is (re)produced and readied for consumption by the living. Elam and Pielak have constructed an informed and candid symbology of corpses, a catalogue of what it means to "care for corpses" as they were rendered historically, as they confront us today (and will tomorrow), and as we struggle to make sense of them—make them acceptable, even containable—through the literary.
— Janelle A. Schwartz, Hamilton College
There have been many books about death—fewer about the corpse, and none are as eloquent and provocative as Corpse Encounters. Elam and Pielak explore in clear and lyrical prose the aesthetic practices and rituals surrounding the dead body and its disposal. Corpse Encounters is a beautiful blend of creative nonfiction, theory, and literary criticism (it features Evelyn Waugh and Samuel Beckett) that will make you think hard about not only the body rendered in art but also the realness of bodies, our own and others, and about the ethics and the politics of what we do to those bodies when they inevitably encounter death.
— Dawn Keetley, Lehigh University
With theoretical underpinnings about death and the body, Jacqueline Elam and Chase Pielak’s Corpse Encounters: An Aesthetics of Death intersects historical and modern conceptions of the disposal and display of the dead body. With a variety of compelling personal, visual, and literary examples, this fascinating book questions notions of materiality, preservation, and memorialization, and offers a unique examination of the political and artistic power of the corpse.
— Jolene Zigarovich, University of Northern Iowa