Aesthetics of Death Workshop

Aesthetics of Death Workshop 

14 March 2019, University Library, Belle van Zuylen room


This workshop asks how death – and specifically the moment of dying – is portrayed in different media, from Renaissance painting to contemporary film, literature and the digital realm. In their 2018 book Corpse Encounters: An Aesthetics of Death, Jacqueline Elam and Chase Pielak argue, as Philippe Ariès did before them, that there is an “aesthetics of erasure at work on the dead body,” a taboo around the dead or dying body. However, in art and on the internet images of dead and dying bodies proliferate, often aestheticized (along gendered and racialized lines) but also as objects of desire, fascination and ridicule. In looking at different cultural objects, their aesthetics and politics, we ask: what forms does death, and the affects associated with it, take?  What kinds of deaths are portrayed and what kinds of deaths remain invisible? On what aesthetic traditions do portrayals of (the moment of) death draw? And what kind of knowledge about death – its nature (when does death occur?), its meanings, how to face it – do aesthetic portrayals of death reflect and generate? The workshop features five speakers from different disciplines (art history, film studies, Latin American studies and new media) and a closing discussion around shared readings.

Organizer: Esther Peeren

The number of participants is limited to 25. Please email Esther Peeren ( to register and to request copies of the reading materials. Research-MA students can earn 1 EC by attending the workshop and preparing a discussion question about the readings.