Monday, 24 September 2007


Medieval mementi mori represented death and physical corruption as a process of dessication: a turning into dust, ‘ashes to ashes’, ‘from dust you art and to dust you shall return’ and so on. But modern life sees bodily matter (witness ten thousand horror flicks, and the expert special-effect representation of the abjection of decay) as a wet thing. The flesh, dry and clean, has become our flesh, sodden and rotten and revolting.

I wonder if this isn't a symptom of a broader cultural evolution, a shift from discourses of dryness to ones of wetness. Smoking goes out of fashion and drinking comes in; we go from dystopic future-visions of desert landscapes and dried-out ruined city husks to dystopic future-visions of devastating flood.

What gives? Don't we feel dry anymore? Have our whistles been too thoroughly wetted?

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