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SoundsThe Ambient Humanities$
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John Mowitt

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780520284623

Published to California Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520284623.001.0001

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(p.78) 4. Gasp

John Mowitt

University of California Press

This chapter discusses the gasp through readings of Terrence McNally's Last Gasps and Salman Rushdie's The Moor's Last Sigh. It has been suggested that the emergency at the core of Last Gasps is the then current anxiety about air pollution, and the widely shared Western belief that time is running out for humanity. From this perspective the title is at once literal and allegorical: the gasps heard are but moments in the “last gasp of humanity,” at the end of times. Meanwhile, The Moor's Last Sigh is about the last gasp of the last Moor in Spain, drawing attention to the expulsion of the Moors from Europe that occurred under the reign of Columbus's Catholic sponsors—Ferdinand and Isabella. The comparison between Rushdie and McNally amplifies the vital sense that the world on the wane in Last Gasps is less the planet of ecological concern and more “the world” brought into being through the emergence of Judeo-Christian Europe.

Keywords:   gasp, Terrence McNally, Last Gasps, Salman Rushdie, Moor's Last Sigh

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