The new morbid curiosity... may be a pendulum swing back toward the sublime and the philosophical—a new secular foray into the morbid territory that religion previously charted. One way to avoid deeper engagement with death is to paint it entirely from the crude palette of emotions like disgust and fear. We've already got plenty of that kind of "morbid" in popular culture. But awe and wonder need to be restored to our experience of death, and we're not sure how to do it in a post-religious culture.
--"A Healthy Mania for the Macabre," Stephen T. Asma, The Chronicle for Higher EducationThe above is excerpted from a characteristically thoughtful and erudite piece by Stephen Asma, one of my all-time favorite scholars and author of the fantastic Stuffed Animals and Pickled Heads. The piece--entitled "A Healthy Mania for the Macabre"--explores the current uptick of interest in all things macabre, and situates it within the history ofspectacular morbid display from memento mori to Frederik Ruysch to Gunther von Hagens; It also features interesting quotations from interviews with morbid art collector Richard Harris, charnel house obsessive and Empire of Death author Paul Koudounaris, and yours truly.
You can read the entire article by clicking here. I very highly recommend it!
Image: Clemente Susini (probably): Slashed Beauty, wax, human hair, pearls, rosewood and Venetian glass case, ca 1790, La Specola, Museo di Storia Naturale, Florence, Italy; From the Anatomical Theatre exhibition