Beside the Corpse

Ranjana Khanna
Director, Franklin Humanities Institute
Professor of English and Literature

In his essay “Thoughts for the Time on War and Death,” Sigmund Freud, referring to Aristotle’s De Anima, writes of the “picture of death” becoming the starting point of all speculation.  Departing from philosophers like Aristotle, Freud prioritizes psychology over philosophy when he writes that “it was beside the dead body of someone he loved that he (man) invented spirits….”  The paper will address the distinction between the image of the corpse on the one hand, and being beside the corpse on the other, to consider these different modes of trying to theorize modern death, understand speculation, and make sense of the intolerable proximity to the corpse.

Ranjana Khanna is Professor of English, Women's Studies, and the Literature Program at Duke University where she directs the Franklin Humanities Institute. She works on Anglo- and Francophone Postcolonial theory and literature, and Film, Psychoanalysis, and Feminist theory. She is the author of Dark Continents: Psychoanalysis and Colonialism (Duke University Press, 2003) and Algeria Cuts: Women and Representation 1830 to the present (Stanford University Press, 2008.)

Death Drives, or Thinking with the Corpse