Saturday, April 18, 2009

Is (fill in the blank with the name of a dead person everyone knows is dead) dead?

OK, I heard in the audiocommentary or maybe it was an interview supplement on the new DVD edition of Wes Craven's Last House on the Left that the film was given this title because no went to see the film when it was shown with its original title.  Something about the word "last" seems to hook audiences.  Also appears to be the case as well as with the "death of" whatever, at the moment.  But consider Mark Twain's title "Is Shakespeare Dead?"  It's kind of funny, both comic and weird.  How can it be a question? What does it mean?  Is Twain serious?  Twain doesn't address the title in his book, which is about the authorship question.  And then we have the death of various isms, like Marxism in Derrida's Spectres of Marx (is Marxism dead?).  Derrida ends his postscript-mortem essay on Foucault "To Do Justice to Freud" (which turns out to be a line Foucault wrote) by twice using the metaphor for keeping the questions Foucault raised "alive."   My favorite example is in  Son of Frankenstein when Igor (Bela Lugosi) says joyously that he is "alive dead," but the people who tried and final to execute him by hanging  are "dead dead" (because he had the monster kill them in retaliation).  

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