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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... LAURA E. T ANNER “Looking Back from the Grave”: Sensory Perception and the Anticipation of Absence in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead n the final weeks of his life, John Ames, the elderly and criti- cally ill protagonist of Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead (2004), finds himself caught between the urgent experience of pain- ful 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 tempo- ral 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 try- ing 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 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 the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin.
ISSN
1548-9949

Abstract

LAURA E. T ANNER “Looking Back from the Grave”: Sensory Perception and the Anticipation of Absence in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead n the final weeks of his life, John Ames, the elderly and criti- cally ill protagonist of Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead (2004), finds himself caught between the urgent experience of pain- ful 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 tempo- ral 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 try- ing 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

Journal

Contemporary LiteratureUniversity of Wisconsin Press

Published: Jul 25, 2007

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