The Dominion of the Dead

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Human beings are the only living creatures that bury their dead. Burial traditions remain, even after customs of religion or matrimony disappear. Even today, in a culture that considers itself largely secular and scientific, the living insist on laying their dead properly to rest and are in anguish if that privilege is denied. Think of the grief of those who lose loved ones at sea or the families of the September 11th dead who were left with only ashes.

But even after the dead are buried, they do not leave our lives. In fact, says literary philosopher Robert Pogue Harrison, the dead have dominion. They give us our language and laws, our passions and pathologies, they teach what it means to live. Dwelling among the dead.


Robert Pogue Harrison, professor of Italian Literature, Stanford University, author, “The Dominion of the Dead”