The Centre for Comparative Modernities is delighted to announce the final workshop of the Centre’s Autumn Workshop Series on 21 November 2023. Please note all sessions in this series will be online on Zoom at 13:00 UK time.
The Zoom link for all sessions is:
Meeting ID: 948 8192 7692
Ritual and the Modern Art of Mourning – A Look at the Value of Mourning Rites in England and South Korea from 1830 to the Present
Dilara Scholz, Royal Holloway University of London
Abstract: The Covid-19 pandemic and its mortality rate has resurfaced questions surrounding grief and the strategies societies in the West use to deal with death and grief. Showing no trace of mourning in everyday life is communicated to be the modern and thus ‘appropriate’ way. In contrast, Victorian mourning culture was rich in materiality and expression, including department stores specifically dedicated to mourning paraphernalia. What happened? Lasting change occurred with the outbreak of the First World War and the mass death resulting from it, discouraging individuals and families from expressing their grief in order to not impact morale. The West’s ‘modern’ view on grief includes the perception of it as a form of self-indulgence with even the wearing of black at a funeral is at times is discouraged and thus almost seen as unmodern. It appears as if society has not only moved death from the home to the institution but further sanitised every trace of it out everyday life in a pursuit of eternal youth, leading to awkwardness whenever death resurfaces. Prigerson, Vanderwerker and Maciejewski have proven in their study in 2008 that the repression of grief is distressing and disruptive, further highlighting that Victorian funerary rituals, now seen as outdated, may have had their benefits. In this paper, I would like to shed light on South Korea’s ritualised mourning traditions and their impact on society, with strategies that are rich in material culture and expression that still seem to accommodate modern, considering the placement of Starbucks shops at funeral halls as well as highspeed services for providing mourning dress. I will attempt to compare East and West – two ways of life (and death) – in order to understand what place death has – and should have – in society and why ritual is modern by design.
‘The cry is all for Prince Alfred’: The Vacant Hellenic Throne and the Election to it of Queen Victoria’s Second Son
Aidan Jones, King’s College London
Abstract: Five years after the jubilations that marked the twenty-five-year reign of King Otto of Greece, in December 1862, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, William Ewart Gladstone, remarked to the Lord Privy Seal, the Duke of Argyll, that, ‘The world is now taking an immense interest in Greek affairs, and it does not seem to know why.’ The British minister-resident to Greece, Sir Henry Storks, did. ‘In these islands’, Storks reported, ‘the cry is all for Prince Alfred.’ The expulsion of King Otto from Athens, after a successful revolution in October 1862, directed the attentions of Europe’s ruling houses and Chancelleries to the empty throne of the troubled kingdom. And the question of who would succeed the unfortunate Otto I – since it was likely to impact on great power relations in the Near East – dominated the corridors of power in London, Paris, and St Petersburg. Two months after the inglorious deposition of Otto I, the Greeks selected and offered the throne to Prince Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh. However, dynastic politics, diplomatic implications, and personal feelings, led to the prince’s refusal of the Hellenic crown.The aim of this paper is to investigate the ‘opportunity’ presented to Prince Alfred between 1859-1864. Taking a multi-scalar approach, the paper will examine the reaction of Queen Victoria, and Alfred, to the offer of a throne that might have taken her son to the farthest corner of South-Eastern Europe. It will analyse the attitude of Britain’s ministers towards the possible election of Prince Alfred to a country in which Britain possessed political, strategic, and economic interests, as well as oft-conflicting views in Whitehall. It will also explore the reactions of the other European powers and their ruling houses to the prospect of a British prince becoming ruler of a small, but strategically important, kingdom. Finally, the paper will shed light on why the Greek populace looked to Alfred as their future sovereign.