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Kuhns, R.F. (1969). Modernity and Death: The Leopard by Giuseppe Di Lampedusa. Contemp. Psychoanal., 5(2):95-118.

(1969). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 5(2):95-118

Modernity and Death: The Leopard by Giuseppe Di Lampedusa Related Papers

Richard F. Kuhns, Ph.D.

There [in literature] we still find people who know how to die.

DESPITE OUR LITERARY preoccupation with violence and death, it is extraordinary in this day to find a novel about dying. Art, or what passes as art, can readily depict the contortions of death; it can only through much greater effort and with a more delicate hand present the living of life as a preparation for death—to present death not as a terminal event, the sudden, unexpected ending of a life, but the dominant theme lived throughout a life. Indeed, the problem of writing about dying is made the more difficult by our fear, which compels us to prefer to read about death rather than dying; yet alongside of that is our need to come to an understanding of death which makes dying one of the great subjects of art. Death demands but a rhetoric; dying an aesthetic and a philosophy.

Contemporary literature, dwelling on the fact of death with stupid morbidity, assumes that the tragic is to be found in the violent interruption death effects, annihilating a promising future and transforming the past into an apparent refuge. Death is seen to separate the hero from his unrealized future and his happier past. This treatment of death is the opposite of the traditional philosophical one in which life is lived in full awareness of death, and one central concern of life is to embrace death as a natural culmination rather than a violent interruption.

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