Posthumous temporality and encrypted historical time in fiction and life writing

Randall, James P.. 2018. Posthumous temporality and encrypted historical time in fiction and life writing. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis considers ways of reading posthumousness in narrative in various theoretical and literary constellations by focusing on temporality and historical time. Defining posthumousness in terms of a narrative perspective adopted after the death of a character or the narrator, I consider how writers reanimate historical characters, adopt imagined posthumous perspectives and reconstruct historical memory. I combine approaches to temporality by Paul Ricoeur and Mark Currie, incorporating elements of psychoanalytic and poststructuralist theory including Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok’s writing on crypts, Ned Lukacher’s analysis of primal scenes and prosopopoeia, and Jacques Derrida’s writing on the archive.

Each chapter considers how historical time is imagined within narratives concerned with posthumousness. Chapter 1 considers how historical time is given a place within the posthumous narrative of Iain Sinclair and Rachel Lichtenstein’s Rodinsky’s Room. Chapters 2 and 3 develop ideas of historical time and the posthumous in relation to Wilhelm Jensen’s Gradiva and Orhan Pamuk’s The Black Book. Chapter 4 compares Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet and José Saramago’s The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis. Chapter 5 analyzes posthumousness in Bruno Schulz’s stories, and how these are reimagined by Jonathan Safran Foer (Tree of Codes), David Grossman (See Under: Love) and Cynthia Ozick (The Messiah of Stockholm).

I focus on these novels’ engagement with posthumousness, including how primal elements of memory and historical time are given new presences. I consider how this approach to fiction and historical time gives the past a new life in narrative, giving time for what Schulz describes in his story ‘The Age of Genius’: ‘events that have no place of their own in time; events that have occurred too late, after the whole of time has been distributed, divided and allotted; events that have been left… hanging in the air, homeless and errant.’

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):

Additional Information:

This is an edited version of the thesis with third-party copyright material removed.


Posthumous, temporality, narrative, crypt, encryption, psychoanalysis, afterlife, afterlives, Schulz, Pamuk, Saramago, Gradiva, Jensen, Pessoa, Sinclair, Lichtenstein, Freud, Foer, Perec, Lukacher, Ricoeur, Barthes, Sebald, Kafka, Blanchot, Casares, Auster, primal, memory, scene, biography, autobiography, de Man, Derrida, archive, fever, void, vertigo, death, delusion, suspense, fiction, history, double, spectre, European, postmodern, Rodinsky, Moses, Benjamin, de Certeau, rupture, fragment, ruin, historical

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature


31 March 2018

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

01 May 2018 09:43

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:13


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