Close encounters of a fatal kind
in Over her dead body
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This chapter discusses two novels by Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd and Tess of the D'Urbervilles, to illustrate the strategy of self- protection and self-generation. Sacrifice and art come to pose as diametric opposites, both feeding on death and femininity as semiotic mobility. The chapter describes examples where a desire for closure encounters an opposing desire that undermines this totalising ambition. This subversive tendency emerges on the very site of presumed mastery and control, the feminine corpse. The exchange of female bodies and the forms of exchange occurring at their bodies prove how fatal it can be to confuse a body with a sign. In a particular instance, the dead body functions as the necessary prerequisite for the aesthetic and hermeneutic process.

Over her dead body

Death, femininity and the aesthetic

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