Labyrinth Books and the Princeton Public Library invite you to a presentation and discussion with Thomas Laqueur, whose new book provides a compelling and richly detailed account of how and why the living have cared for the dead, from antiquity to the twentieth century.
The Greek philosopher Diogenes said that when he died his body should be tossed over the city walls for beasts to scavenge. Why should he or anyone else care what became of his corpse? The acclaimed cultural historian Thomas Laqueur examines why humanity has universally rejected this stance. Please join Laqueur as he reads from The Work of the Dead, describes the decades of research behind this monumental project, and discusses the history of the dead in many forms across the ages, from churchyards and cemeteries, to tombs, memorials, and ashes.
“Why we feel compelled as a species to treat our mortal remains with such an astonishing variety of rituals, is the subject of this deeply learned and richly detailed meditation. Eschewing simple explanations, ranging across centuries and cultures, plunging with unflagging energy into vast archives, Laqueur discloses and explores the work that the dead do for the living. The Work of the Dead is like a vast canvas in which the reader can somehow see at the same moment the tiny buttons on a frock coat and the curvature of the earth. The book is a moving triumph of scholarship and the historical imagination."--Stephen Greenblatt, author of The Swerve: How the World Became Modern
Thomas W. Laqueur is Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley. His books include Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud and Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation. He is a regular contributor to the London Review of Books.