Fri, Sep 13 at 7 p.m. | 90 minutes
*This Olio will take place in a Bushwick apartment. Address will be sent upon rsvp*
Where did death go? For most of our history, death demanded constant intimacy with life, obligating the living to tend to it, practice for it, and most importantly, know it.
A constant harbinger, death also presented itself as a most exciting opportunity. Death, it was once believed, offered human beings their greatest stage for self-making. Only in one’s death could they truly become who they are, or were. Death revealed a final and unquestionable truth. Thus the living studied this craft, this difficult art of dying, knowing they had but one chance to perform well on the Reaper’s stage.
Grief, too, occupied and carved out a space for itself in social life. Grief had rules, expectations, and it required mourners to announce its presence in their daily public lives. Witnesses to such displays had a role to play as well. Being well versed and trained in the acts of grief, community members responded with precise social displays of sympathy.
Today, many of us have no idea how to speak about death, let alone how to behave in the presence of it. Do we hug our colleague who has just lost a parent? Do we attend a funeral for someone we don’t love? Do we wash dead bodies? What do you say when someone you love tells you they are dying? How do you let others know you are heartbroken by grief? This Olio will look at the lost art of dying, the absence of clear social expectations for the grieving, and try to understand how and why we let death disappear from life.
Jamie Warren has a Ph.D. in American History from Indiana University, and she is an Assistant Professor at BMCC-CUNY where she teaches American history, the history of women and gender, and women’s studies. Her research focuses on slavery in antebellum South with a particular focus on death, the body, and the philosophy of history.