A Phone Call with the Dead. Necrodialogues in Western Literature, Theater and Media.

01 October 2020 → 30 September 2024
Regional and community funding: Special Research Fund
Research disciplines
  • Social sciences
    • Cultural media
Necrodialogues and Communication with and among the dead Religion and Media Death Memory and Mourning
Project description

The necrodialogue is an anthropological need that finds expression in ritualistic and artistic representations. Inherent to this dialogue is the use of personal intermediaries and technical media to establish contact. We know that cultural historical and religious views on death have always influenced necrodialogues and vice versa. The fact that changes in media history reshape the necrodialogue has, however, received far less attention.  In antiquity, ritualistic and aestheticized necrodialogues reflected the tensions between oral and written culture. The invention of printing instigated imagined necrodialogues to disseminate humanist reformatory ideas and social satire. A radical distinction between religion and technology in late 19th-century theories of secularization has, however, diverted scholarly attention from the further development of the necrodialogue. The present project argues that the late 19th-century rise of technical media, such as photography, radio and telephone in Europe and North America fostered the development of necrodialogues in 20th- and 21st-century literature and art. By exploring the ways in which necrodialogues from artists like Thornton Wilder, Jean Cocteau, and Sibylle Lewitscharoff engage with the notion of personal and technical mediation, I aim to reconsider the historical development of necrodialogues and to contribute to contemporary cultural and religious understandings of the uses of media in relation to death, memory, and mourning.