The Rarity of Things



Even common things — like tables and TVs — have rarity. In Sandra Gilbert’s corona of sonnets to her dying mother, things are assigned the impossible task of symbolizing the imperishable value of a human life. But things too have rarity; they “live by perishing,” as Rilke reminds us. They “live” of course only in that sense that they are perishing. And since we are things too — living things no less — we resist and repress our own rarity in our fetishizing of the supposed invincibility of material lasting. In the remains of the deceased body these human projections of material substance are eerily suspended. The remains mark a particular crossing in rarity’s passage between the material and the immaterial.


Living Thing Vacuum Cleaner Material Evidence Freezing Rain Human Projection 
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  1. 1.
    Sandra M. Gilbert, Kissing the Bread: New and Selected Poems ( New York: Norton, 2000 ), 197–98.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Sandra M. Gilbert, Belongings (New York: Norton, 2005), 17. Subsequent references are cited parenthetically.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain ( New York: Oxford University Press, 1985 ), 49.Google Scholar

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© Harold Schweizer 2016

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