Threshold Images Between Life and Death in Western Literature and Film

  • Günter Blamberger


This essay explores aesthetic strategies of functionalizing and evidencing traditional Western images of death and the beyond, after the “death of God” (Nietzsche), in literature and film of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It focuses on threshold images between life and death in Franz Kafka’s “The Hunter Gracchus,” Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, Joel Schumacher’s Flatliners, Peter Weir’s Fearless, David Fincher’s Se7en, Albert Camus’ La Peste, Durs Grünbein’s To the Dear Dead: 33 Epitaphs, Franz Kafka’s and Miguel de Cervantes’ thought-images of the end of Don Quixote, and Sibylle Lewitscharoff’s Blumenberg. It argues that as religion has lost its influence as a common master discourse providing answers to fundamental problems, and as the sciences have to refrain from any reference to transcendence, literature, the arts, and especially the audiovisual mass media have gained a new, enormous platform as a functional equivalent of religion, as a singular gateway to the Other that is incalculable and invisible. They face a responsibility which they cannot measure up to, and which they tend to avoid. But the fact is that in Western societies, marked by a structural atheism, almost everybody pays attention to the artifacts of literature, arts, and mass media to study their depiction and their reading of traditionally religious questions of disease, death, and the beyond, of good and bad, justice and injustice, love and grief, community and solitude.


Threshold images between life and death Death of God Western literature and film Kafka Thomas Mann Grünbein 


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Morphomata Center for Advanced Studies, University of CologneKölnGermany

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