15th May 2013

The first of three sessions scheduled for the Summer term will be presented by Paul Muldoon of Monash University- abstract as follows:

Citizens in Mourning: Politics, Loss and the Unmastered Past

Grief is commonly accepted as the appropriate, indeed the natural, response to loss. But this acceptance of grief is quickly withdrawn once it exceeds certain (usually unspecified) temporal limits. Grief, it seems, can have ‘its time’, but no more. Predictably the censure that protracted grief attracts is more marked when it spills over into the public realm or, as appears to be the case at present, becomes a prominent modality of politics (e.g. in form of truth commissions, public apologies, days of commemoration, memorials for the dead). In times of grief, the time allowed for grief appears to be even more closely scrutinised and censured for fear that it will have an enervating effect on political life. In this paper I interrogate the discourse that posits grief as a threat to politics. Drawing on Shakespeare’s Tragedy of Hamlet, I suggest that what is not uncommonly dismissed as ‘a useless brooding over what is past’ may not be so useless after all. In the post-Auschwitz world, when the times are ‘out of joint’, grief and the associated work of mourning may be less destructive of political action than its very condition of possibility.

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS WILL BE IN AMORY 128– a change from our previous location.