115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Prothesis and Ekphora: Aestheticization of the Dead versus Social Death in Josef Winkler’s “Graveyard of Bitter Oranges”

William Christopher Burwick, Hamilton College

This paper will focus on Josef Winkler’s portrayal of lying in state (prothesis) and funerary processions (ekphora) in Graveyard of Bitter Oranges and discuss how his aestheticization questions the social treatment of death and grants discursive visibility to groups or individuals who would be considered socially dead, in other words, be invisible.

Proposal: 

Josef Winkler’s novel and experimental approach to the narration of lived experience and memory, his embrace of visual media and visual culture as a subject of his writing, and his ongoing attempts to thematize contemporary social and political issues in Carinthia and greater Austria render him a particularly relevant subject of investigation. This paper will discuss his Graveyard of Bitter Oranges (2001) with its focus on death and  social injustice that have earned him considerable praise and criticism. Although Winkler’s construction of the body is discursive, it goes beyond Butler’s performativity and Foucault’s subjected and docile bodies. Whereas Foucault’s “docile bodies” have internalized power structures rendered invisible, Winkler’s bodies bear distinct marks of discipline, torture, self-inflicted injuries, or even death in form of accidental and intentional wounds. By concentrating on his recently translated novel Graveyard of Bitter Oranges, I will discuss the intersection between Winkler’s writing process and aesthetization, specifically in reference to Winkler’s portrayal of lying in state (prothesis) and funerary processions (ekphora).  I will further argue that aesthetization of the dead has a function, namely to criticize or question the social treatment of death.  Winkler’s handling of death, particularly unjust, untimely, or out of place death (accidents, war, suicide), grants discursive visibility to groups or individuals who would otherwise be considered socially dead, in other words, be invisible. By elevating death to an aesthetic/linguistic project he strives for a form of discursive immortality through criticism of structural authority and factors that give rise to social death.

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