To Die a Living Death: Phantasms of Burial and Cremation in Derridaâ€™s Final Seminar
In the Third Session of his seminar The Beast and the Sovereign , Volume 2, Jacques Derrida turns from a close reading of Heideggerâ€™s 1929â€“1930 seminar on The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics and Daniel Defoeâ€™s Robinson Crusoe â€”the two books at the center of the seminarâ€”to the question of what it means for a large and growing number of people in the Western world to have to decide, in a seemingly sovereign fashion, about how their bodies are to be treated after their deaths, that is, whether they are to be buried or cremated. This question marks a rather surprising turn to the presentâ€”even the autobiographicalâ€”in the seminar. This essay follows Derridaâ€™s treatment of the question in the rest of the seminar. It considers, first, what Derrida calls the phantasms attendant upon all speculations regarding this supposedly binary alternative between inhumation and creation and then what this alternative might tell us about Greco-European modernity and certain modern conceptions of the subject and the subjectâ€™s putative autonomy and sovereignty over its life, its body, and its remains.
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