Aura—the breath of enchantment—that makes the body of a saint or a unique masterwork of art special is said to be on the wane, done in by technology and secularization. But the bodies of the dead and even their ashes, indistinguishable one urn from other, have lost little of their potency. This lecture explores the ways in which the aura of mortal remains function to create sacrality in the absence of God and other worlds beyond our own.
Thomas W. Laqueur is the Helen Fawcett Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley. His books include Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud, Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation, and Religion and Respectability: Sunday Schools and Working Class Culture, 1780–1850. He is a regular contributor to the London Review of Books.
This event is cosponsored by the Department of History, the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy, and the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society.