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Full Access Time and the Horizon of Poignancy: Notes on Temporally Induced Sorrow

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Time and the Horizon of Poignancy: Notes on Temporally Induced Sorrow

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Abstract The origin of poignancy is our awareness of eventual loss due to the ephemerality of existence. Socialization produces a self that is simultaneously subject and object, knower and known. Self-consciousness is an awareness that one exists, one matters, and strong feelings are attached to one’s continued existence. To be self-conscious, however, is to be aware of one’s eventual demise. Moreover, each passing moment is immediately and irretrievably lost, which can make it precious in our sight, its loss poignant when we remember that our days are numbered. I examine poignancy in everyday life and literature. The essential formula for poignancy appears to be a collision between our capacity to imagine an infinite future and the finitude of all human experience. Susan Sontag’s study of photography provides further evidence for this argument.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology Eckerd College flahermg@eckerd.edu

10.1163/156852412X631664
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Abstract The origin of poignancy is our awareness of eventual loss due to the ephemerality of existence. Socialization produces a self that is simultaneously subject and object, knower and known. Self-consciousness is an awareness that one exists, one matters, and strong feelings are attached to one’s continued existence. To be self-conscious, however, is to be aware of one’s eventual demise. Moreover, each passing moment is immediately and irretrievably lost, which can make it precious in our sight, its loss poignant when we remember that our days are numbered. I examine poignancy in everyday life and literature. The essential formula for poignancy appears to be a collision between our capacity to imagine an infinite future and the finitude of all human experience. Susan Sontag’s study of photography provides further evidence for this argument.

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/content/journals/10.1163/156852412x631664
2012-01-01
2017-04-26

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