Accepted paper:

'Aimer et mourir/ Au pays qui te ressemble': Representations of Love and Death in Poetry and Myth


Leon Burnett (University of Essex)

Paper short abstract:

Nothing is more central to the meaning of human existence than love and death, but just as fundamental is the urge to give artistic expression to these two primordial preoccupations. This paper considers how love and death have been represented across the ages as inter-related topoi.

Paper long abstract:

'Aimer et mourir/ Au pays qui te ressemble' ('to love and to die/ in the country that is like you'): what, following Baudelaire, is referred to in this paper as 'love and death' has been codified as 'Eros and Thanatos' by a Viennese doctor and popularised as 'sex and violence' by a succession of Hollywood directors. Even though the terms of reference change and the perspectives vary, a perception of the complex and indissoluble link between the creative and the destructive in human life, sustained in all cultures through artistic representation and a sense of the aesthetic, has remained constant. This paper addresses representations and interpretations drawn from a variety of eastern and western sources, citing contrastive examples that rely heavily upon the mythic, in order to assess the significance of motifs which accommodate the primordial abstractions of love and death. Taking its cue from the emphasis on order and beauty in 'L'Invitation au voyage', but moving beyond the referential frame of Baudelaire's poem, the paper reviews aspects of the relationship between the cosmos and its human inhabitants made manifest in the myths of the cultures in which they are situated and in which they remain potent to this day as symbolic of the need for the sacred in a globalising world.

panel P24
Accommodating the primordial: the function of myth in a globalising world