This essay explores the issue of collecting in William Beckford’s unpublished manuscript “The Dome of the Setting Sun” (1777), in which the typical aspects of his future endeavours as a collector and a writer are foreshadowed. The temple’s interior in the story is the space where the subject enjoys his ego projected onto art works and quotes from cherished books and thus replicates the synchronic haven in which the narcissist comes to terms with the anxiety of death. The final dream of journeying to the islands far removed from the philistine present of capitalism takes on the symbolic function of eliminating the father figure. Alongside collected items, Beckford’s quotations prefigure the destructive power of modernity attributed to the fragment by Walter Benjamin.
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