A phone call with the dead. Necrodialogues in 20th-century literature and other media

Een telefoontje met de doden. Nekrodialogen in 20e-eeuwse literatuur en andere media
Begin - Einde 
2020 - 2024 (lopend)
Vakgroep Letterkunde



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 printinginstigated 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 whichnecrodialogues from artists like Thornton Wilder, Jean Cocteau, and Sibylle Lewitscharoff engage with the notion of personal andtechnical 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.


Postdoctorale medewerker(s)