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The Power of Death: Contemporary Reflections on Death in Western Society

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The Power of Death

Contemporary Reflections on Death in Western Society

Edited by Maria-José Blanco and Ricarda Vidal

272 pages, 17 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78238-433-5 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (October 2014)

ISBN  978-1-78533-510-5 $29.95/£23.95 Pb Published (February 2017)

eISBN 978-1-78238-434-2 eBook

Hb Pb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook! $29.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“As well as for thanatology and death studies specialists, the book will be of even keener interest to those in the various areas touched on in the essays, offering an eye-opening introduction to an interdisciplinary approach in this fascinating field.” · Social Anthropology

“The extraordinary impact of loss is discussed in a number of contexts including war and the complexities of dealing with that experience in a socially and culturally dynamic contemporary society. Contributors are drawn from a range of disciplines and international academic contexts, which makes for rich empirical fare…as well as covering socially important topics.” · Avril Maddrell, University of the West of England

“The conceptual and methodological concerns contained within this collection are very wide ranging and… there is something for every reader who hails from an arts and humanities or social science background.” · Hannah Rumble, University of Bath


The social and cultural changes of the last century have transformed death from an everyday fact to something hidden from view. Shifting between the practical and the theoretical, the professional and the intimate, the real and the fictitious, this collection of essays explores the continued power of death over our lives. It examines the idea and experience of death from an interdisciplinary perspective, including studies of changing burial customs throughout Europe; an account of a“dying party” in the Netherlands; examinations of the fascination with violent death in crime fiction and the phenomenon of serial killer art; analyses of death and bereavement in poetry, fiction, and autobiography; and a look at audience reactions to depictions of death on screen. By studying and considering how death is thought about in the contemporary era, we might restore the natural place it has in our lives.

Maria-José Blanco is a Lecturer and Language teacher in the Department of Spanish Portuguese and Latin American Studies (SPLAS) at King’s College London. She is the author of Life-writing in Carmen Martín Gaite’s Cuadernos de todo and her Novels of the 1990s (2013), and the editor of a special issue of Journal of Romance Studies, “Airing the Private: Women’s Diaries in the Luso-Hispanic World” (2009) and the forthcoming Feminine Singular: Growing up through life-writing in the Luso-Hispanic World (2014).

Ricarda Vidal holds a PhD in Cultural Studies (Birkbeck University of London) and teaches at the department of Culture, Media and Creative Industries at King’s College London.  She has published on urban space, the legacy of Modernism and Romanticism, speed, the car and driving as cultural phenomena, and society’s fascination with death and murder. She is the author of Death and Desire in Car Crash Culture: A Century of Romantic Futurisms (2013).

Subject: Cultural Studies (General) Sociology Literary Studies


List of Illustrations
Notes on Contributors

Ricarda Vidal and Maria-José Blanco


Chapter 1. Life Extension, Immortality and the Patient Voice
Catherine Jenkins

Chapter 2. Beyond ‘Mourning and Melancholia’
Lynne M. Simpson

Chapter 3. War and Requiem Compositions in the Twentieth Century
Wolfgang Marx


Chapter 4. Understanding Death/Writing Bereavement: The writer’s experience
Maria-José Blanco López de Lerma

Chapter 5. A Way of Sorrows for the Twentieth Century: Margherita Guidacci’s LaVia Crucis dell’umanità
Eleanor David

Chapter 6. From Self-Erasure to Self-Affirmation: Communally Acknowledged ‘Good Death’ in Ernest Gaines’s A Lesson Before Dying
Corina Crisu

Chapter 7. Habeas Corpse. The Dead Body of Evidence in John Grisham’s The Client
Fiorenzo Iuliano

Chapter 8. The Fascination with Torture and Death in Twenty-first-Century Crime Fiction
Rebecca Shillabeer


Chapter 9. The Power of Negative Creation – Why Art by Serial Killers Sells
Ricarda Vidal

Chapter 10. Screening the Dying Individual: Film, Mortality and the Ethics of Spectatorship
John Horne

Chapter 11. The Broken Body as Spectacle: Looking at Death and Injury in Sport
Julia Banwell

Chapter 12. Death on Display: The Ideological Function of the Mummies of the World Exhibit
Diana York Blaine


Chapter 13. The Romanian Carnival of Death and the Merry Cemetery of  Săpânţa
Marina Cap Bun

Chapter 14. In the Dead of Night: a Nocturnal Exploration of Heterotopia in the Graveyard
Bel Deering

Chapter 15. Scenarios of Death in Contexts of Mobility: Guineans and Bangladeshis in Lisbon
Clara Saraiva and José Mapril

Chapter 16. Karaoke Death: Intertextuality in Active Euthanasia Practices
Natasha Lushetich


Chapter 17. Death isn't what it used to be
Lala Isla

Chapter 18. The Dad Project
Briony Campbell


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