Death is a biological event constantly understood, interpreted and represented through the prism of culture. Innumerable cultural objects, artefacts and performances, be they narrative or descriptive, visual or literary, elitist or popular, center on the processes leading to death, on the moment of dying itself, or on its aftermath. Violent death – criminal, political – or “natural” passing away are often contextualized in ways that hint at the most general philosophical and theoretical issues: temporality, meaning, justice, beauty and so forth.
While it has often been claimed that modern society relegated death to the margins, making the unpleasant fact of our mortality all but invisible in contemporary daily lives, the last two years may have signaled a return of the repressed: in our pandemic era, the biopolitics of death are back at the fore of public discussions, perhaps even more so than during other kinds of life-threatening crises such as wars. Death and dying are the object of incessant ethical debates around the world, and many of these discussions have aesthetic repercussions too.
This seminar will seek to examine the place of death in culture, both contemporary and historical (present and past being in any case inextricable), by addressing specific case studies from any medium, geographical region or time period.
While the first day will consist of a presentation of Itay Sapir’s research and of general discussions based on preparatory readings, distributed a few weeks before the seminar (general theoretical texts on the aesthetics of death and one or two case studies), the following three half-day sessions will revolve around student presentations. Based on the first day’s discussions, on the common readings and on their own graduate research, students will prepare short presentations (20 minutes) analyzing specific case studies, which will then be discussed by the whole group.
The seminar is open to ASCA and NICA PhD candidates and researchers. Prospective participants are invited to send a one-page proposal to email@example.com by 19 April 2022 describing possible links between the seminar topic and their own research interests. The maximum number of participants is 12. Participants will be selected on the basis of the proposal.