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"Looking Back from the Grave": Sensory Perception and the Anticipation of Absence in Marilynne Robinson's Gilead

"Looking Back from the Grave": Sensory Perception and the Anticipation of Absence in Marilynne... L A U R A E. TA N N E R n the final weeks of his life, John Ames, the elderly and critically ill protagonist of Marilynne Robinson's Gilead (2004), finds himself caught between the urgent experience of painful embodiment and the psychic negotiation of anticipated absence; he comes increasingly to experience a world he cannot fully inhabit. The novel takes the form of a journal written by Ames to his young son, a journal that becomes both a narrative of Ames's inevitable movement toward absence and a collection of images and memories that would resist such progress by rendering the temporal form of narrative spatial and countering embodied absence with representational presence. Confronted with the knowledge of his imminent death, Robinson's protagonist writes to his son, "I'm trying to make the best of our situation. That is, I'm trying to tell you things I might never have thought to tell you if I had brought you up myself, father and son, in the usual companionable way. When things are taking their ordinary course, it is hard to remember what matters" (102). Haunted by a past of uncommunicative fathers and emotionally damaged sons, Ames turns from the http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Contemporary Literature University of Wisconsin Press

"Looking Back from the Grave": Sensory Perception and the Anticipation of Absence in Marilynne Robinson's Gilead

Contemporary Literature , Volume 48 (2) – Jul 25, 2007

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Publisher
University of Wisconsin Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2007 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin. All rights reserved.
ISSN
1548-9949
Publisher site
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Abstract

L A U R A E. TA N N E R n the final weeks of his life, John Ames, the elderly and critically ill protagonist of Marilynne Robinson's Gilead (2004), finds himself caught between the urgent experience of painful embodiment and the psychic negotiation of anticipated absence; he comes increasingly to experience a world he cannot fully inhabit. The novel takes the form of a journal written by Ames to his young son, a journal that becomes both a narrative of Ames's inevitable movement toward absence and a collection of images and memories that would resist such progress by rendering the temporal form of narrative spatial and countering embodied absence with representational presence. Confronted with the knowledge of his imminent death, Robinson's protagonist writes to his son, "I'm trying to make the best of our situation. That is, I'm trying to tell you things I might never have thought to tell you if I had brought you up myself, father and son, in the usual companionable way. When things are taking their ordinary course, it is hard to remember what matters" (102). Haunted by a past of uncommunicative fathers and emotionally damaged sons, Ames turns from the

Journal

Contemporary LiteratureUniversity of Wisconsin Press

Published: Jul 25, 2007

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