chapter  2
8 Pages

Fear and Trembling

Introduction I begin to lay out the parameters of the collective fascination with death as an “object” reflected in Kierkegaard’s title that grips us as a riveting concern even if surreptitiously avoided. I want to trace both the inevitability of death and the fear it arouses as an aspect of the imaginary structure of materialism that posits it as an inescapable and unalterable condition framing what I think of as a problemsolving situation for the human subject. The chapters begin to lay out this interpretive terrain and the need and desire to address it in action as the fate of the social actor. Though this usage is common currency and part of the collective orthodoxy, it constitutes a necessary beginning in this work for analysis and research. One can say that analysis and research on death is one way of dealing with it, though not necessarily of avoiding it. If the inevitability of death can stimulate us to reflect upon our limits, this “contribution” risks being abstract and relatively anonymous in contrast to the traumatic confrontation with our intimate experience of dispossession that it arouses. Throughout I try to refocus Kenneth Burke’s (1957) conception of our propensity to convert our handicaps into virtues that he locates in poetry as the task of converting our sense of annihilation into an engagement with the infinite perplexity of finitude without the aid of miraculous solutions.