The languages of Nox : photographs, materiality, and translation in Anne Carson's epitaph

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2013-05

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Macmillan, Rebecca Anne

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Abstract

Looking primarily at the family photographs in Anne Carson’s epitaph in book form, this essay explores how Nox multiply exhibits translation as the approximation of an imperfect nearness. The replica of a testimonial object Carson created after her brother’s passing, Nox is a resolutely non- narrative work of poetry structured around a belabored translation of a Catullan elegy, prose poems, photographs, and other fragments of memorial matter. Examining Nox as an intimate archive made public through Carson’s act of curation, my project draws attention to how this work analogizes translation to the understanding of affective life. Inspired by Marianne Hirsch’s critical work on vernacular photography, I demonstrate that the exhibited family photographs in Nox not only thematize Carson’s focus on illumination and darkness, but also materially amplify the inaccessibility of the felt lives they encapsulate. I argue that Nox, like the photographs it houses, models a memorial practice insistent simultaneously on materiality and the incomplete proximity to what remains.

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