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"There comes and end to all things": writing death and identity in literature and television
Hollander, Jennifer Ann
Little, Sherry BurgusVoytilla, Stuart
This paper explores some of the many intersections of death and identity in literature and television. The works discussed in this paper, Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the short-lived television series Dead Like Me, Joss Whedon's cult classic Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Neil Gaiman's award-winning novel The Graveyard Book, and Virginia Woolf's seminal work Mrs. Dalloway, all deal with these issues by utilizing supernatural overtones, or by blurring or dissolving boundaries between what is real and what is imagined in order to tell very real stories. Because these stories cannot exist independently of the real world, they are able successfully to connect their readers/viewers back to reality, thus it is precisely because they are imaginary in nature that they are so effective in dealing with real world issues such as death and the loss of identity. This paper also analyzes the effects of handwriting on identity in Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Dead Like Me. I suggest that in both of these texts it is handwriting that helps construct identities by creating a lasting, sometimes permanent record of the characters' actions. Death also plays a crucial role in Stevenson's novel and Dead Like Me as it is death that determines each character's role in society. Death assumes a symbolic role in Mrs. Dalloway and Buffy the Vampire Slayer as well. In these texts, death begets life and becomes the ultimate sacrifice, or gift, for those left behind. Subsequently, it is up to the survivors in each story to redefine themselves so that the gift they have been given, life, is not taken for granted. Finally, I look more closely at death and the identities that are born along the border of the living and the dead, this time in Dead Like Me, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Graveyard Book. Here I argue that the coexistence of the living and the dead in these texts establishes a unique environment for the creation of new identities. All of the works discussed in this paper explore some of the ways in which we deal with death and how its presence in our lives changes not only how we view the world, but also permanently alters how we see ourselves.
English and Comparative Literature
Arts and Letters
San Diego State University
Master of Arts (M.A.) San Diego State University, 2012
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