Ricarda Vidal - Visual Culture

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

Co-edited with Maria-José Blanco
Oxford, New York: Berghahn Press, October 2014.


Power of Death cover
The volume examines approaches to and representations of death in Western societies since 1900. From the practical to the more theoretical aspects of death, from the professional to the intimate, the real and the fictitious, this interdisciplinary collection of twenty essays explores the power of death in our lives.
Organised into five parts, ‘Death in Society’,  ‘Death in Literature’, ‘Death in Visual Culture’, ‘Cemeteries and Funerals’ and ‘Personal Reflections on Death’ this book includes socio-historical and anthropological studies of changing burial customs in Britain, Romania, Portugal and Spain as well as an account of the phenomenon of the ‘dying party’ in the Netherlands. It further examines death and the mourning process from the point of view of the psycho-analyst, the therapist and the social worker; the fascination with violent death in crime fiction and the phenomenon of serial killer art; death and bereavement in poetry, fiction and autobiography; the manipulation of visual constructions of death for political purposes; and spectatorship and audience reactions to fictional and actual depictions of death on screen (cinema and television).
The book concludes with a visual essay by photographer Briony Campbell reflecting on her work ‘The Dad Project’ (2009) which documents her father’s final months before he died from cancer.
This book approaches death through a wide range of themes and disciplines and opens a dialogue between them.


Table of Contents

Introduction, Ricarda Vidal and Maria-José Blanco


Part I – Death in Society

1. Catherine Jenkins, Life Extension, Immortality and the Patient Voice
2. Lynne M. Simpson, Beyond ‘Mourning and Melancholia’
3. Wolfgang Marx, War and Requiem Compositions in the Twentieth Century


Part II – Death in Literature

4. Maria-José Blanco López de Lerma, Understanding Death/Writing Bereavement: The writer’s experience
5. Eleanor Parker, A Way of Sorrows for the Twentieth Century: Margherita Guidacci’s La Via Crucis dell’umanità
6. Corina Crisu, From Self-Erasure to Self-Affirmation: Communally Acknowledged ‘Good Death’ in Ernest Gaines’s Lesson Before Dying
7. Fiorenzo Iuliano, Habeas Corpse. The Dead Body of Evidence in John Grisham’s The Client
8. Rebecca Shillabeer, The Fascination with Torture and Death in Twenty-first-Century Crime Fiction


Part III – Death in Visual Culture

9. Ricarda Vidal, The Power of Negative Creation – Why Art by Serial Killers Sells
10. John Horne, Screening the Dying Individual: Film, Mortality and the Ethics of Spectatorship
11. Julia Banwell, The Broken Body as Spectacle: Looking at Death and Injury in Sport
12. Diana York Blaine, Death on Display: The Ideological Function of the Mummies of the World Exhibit


Part IV – Cemeteries and Funerals

13. Marina Cap Bun, The Romanian Carnival of Death and the Merry Cemetery of  Săpânţa
14. Bel Deering, In the Dead of Night: a Nocturnal Exploration of Heterotopia in the Graveyard
15. Clara Saraiva and José Mapril, Scenarios of Death in Contexts of Mobility: Guineans and Bangladeshis in Lisbon
16. Natasha Lushetich, Karaoke Death: Intertextuality in Active Euthanasia Practices


Part V – Personal Reflections on Death

17. Lala Isla, Death isn’t what it used to be
18. Briony Campbell, The Dad Project