본문 바로가기
  • Home

Overcoming the Fear of Death through Epictetus’ Prohairesis in The Death of Ivan Ilyich and W;t

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2014, 27(3), pp.165-192
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

Sohn, Yoon-Hee 1

1동국대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This paper aims to explore a paradigmatic model of (post)modern death in the thanatology of Western society which is based on the death of individuals in Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Margaret Edson’s W;t. In order to do that, first of all, this paper will investigate “dirty death” in our age which dying Ivan Ilyich and Vivian experience by medical doctors and all kinds of tube devices installed at the ICU (intensive care unit) in the hospital. As part of the dirty death, they experience not only hypocritical care and indifference by their family and the people around them, but also reification as a tool used for experiments in medicine. Secondly, this paper will take note of ancient philosopher Epictetus’ prohairesis against dirty death based on scientific materialism. Epictetus’ prohairesis sticks to the immortal soul’s vision and awakens impressions, i.e. a social reputation, material possession, and status. Through prohairesis, reflecting on themselves regarding their own strong attachment to life, Ivan Ilyich and Vivian overcome their fear of death. In conclusion, this paper will illuminate how this prohairesis subverts a perception gap of death between the dominators and the dominatees based on a cultural capital which is present as symbolic entities and their power in the reproduction of a hierarchical relationship other than an economic capital. The governing classes, represented by Ivan Ilyich and Vivian who have cultural capital, are unaware of the existential death of themselves on account of obsessing about secular things. However, like Susie and Gerasim who represent a different class of people that support spiritual life, Ivan Ilyich and Vivian know their place, be satisfied to be poor but honest, and experience “spiritual conversion” i.e. the protagonist’s vision of redemption by seeing a light which symbolizes the immortal soul before the moment of death. Thus they calmly accept death.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.