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The Book of the Dead In Depth Study

The Book of the Dead In Depth Study - Jonathan Rose Modern...

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Jonathan Rose Modern American Poetry Oct. 20, 2007 “The Book of the Dead” By Muriel Rukeyser (1913 – 1980) “The Book of the Dead” was published in 1938. The original manuscript The Book of the Dead was an Egyptian collection of Funerary spells and ritual practices (c. 1550 BCE). Rukeyser’s twenty poem sequence was published in her second book U.S. 1 (1938). The poem is a multi-part continued sequence that explores the Silicosis outbreak from 1929-1932 that occurred and originated at the Hawk’s Nest Tunneling Project in Gauley Bridge, West Virginia (Nelson 656). Rukeyser and her photographer friend traveled to the site in 1936. She interviewed survivors and family members who had lost loved ones (Nelson 656). In her poem she parallels the destruction of the workers to the destruction of the land. Poem sequences were influenced by modernist poetry and the breath of Eliot and Pound has been left on the page. The Egyptian funerary rites only serve as a structural guideline that Rukeyser has no problem abandoning (Nelson 656). “She intended her collection of poems to expand and explore the guidebook’s presentation of the Atlantic Seaboard (Nelson 656).” Most of the workers were African American, in x-rays of white and black lungs the prognosis was the same and the pictures of separate lungs looked identical in destruction. Images “involve an inter-play of difference of identity… the more we attend to the kinship between the terms the larger the difference may loom (Eagleton 138-139).” It is natural to equate “one thing with another (Eagleton 139).”
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The title, which refers to the ancient book, gives us an image of the Dead being preserved and given a proper burial. Yet, as the poem progresses we see clearly that
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The Book of the Dead In Depth Study - Jonathan Rose Modern...

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