This lecture focuses on a cinematographic as well as on a philosophical reflection on our emotional reaction to and treatment of human corpses. While mourning is often defined by its directedness towards a loss – paradigmatically caused by the death of a relative, friend or a beloved person – it is not at all clear today, how to deal with the corpses of those persons. Are they also part of our mourning? Or are they already excluded from our emotional concerns? And if that is the case, why? Although we know from earlier times and different cultures that relatives prepare the corpses of their relatives and friends for the funeral, it became a dominant practice in our modern culture to delegate these caring activities. What had once been a matter of intimacy, friendship and emotional relationship, today has become a matter of service, organized by a professional undertaker. This cultural change has had an impact on what we may call ‚emotional helplessness’ towards dead bodies in general. While the politics of visual representation of death and dying bodies in the public sphere emphasize the sensational aspects of it, our private sphere lacks any immediate contact with dead bodies. A nine-minute documentary entitled ENDLICH (FINALLY) will be screened, that shows the prosaic work of a modern crematorium in Berlin. Referring to this documentary about the high-tech-standards and the rather impersonal setting of the crematorium – the following hypothesis may be underpinned: Corpses are excluded from processes of mourning because they can’t figure as dynamic factors in our person-directed imagination and narrative fantasies, that underlie all out emotions.
Christiane Voss is Professor for Media Studies at the Bauhaus University Weimar. Ph.D. in philosophy 2003; she taught at Freie Universität Berlin and she also works as a film maker and is the director of ICH DICH AUCH (2005). At present she is working on a documentary with the title ENDLICH (FINALLY). Selected publications: Narrative Emotionen. Eine Untersuchung über Möglichkeiten und Grenzen philosophischer Emotionstheorien (2004); Zwischen Ding und Zeichen. Zur ästhetischen Erfahrung in der Kunst (ed. with Gertrud Koch, 2006); …kraft der Illusion (ed. with Gertrud Koch, 2006); „Es ist, als ob“. Fiktionalität in Philosophie, Film- und Medienwissenschaft (ed. with Gertrud Koch, 2009); Die Mimesis und ihre Künste (ed. with Gertrud Koch and Martin Vöhler; forthcoming).