Guthke, Karl S.
About the author: Karl S. Guthke is the Kuno Francke Professor of German Art and Culture at Harvard University. He is a member of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, England; a former Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Studies in the Humanities Edinburgh; the Humanities Research Centre, Canberra; and the Wolfenbüttel Research Centre. He is a Corresponding Fellow of the British Institute of German Studies, London. His recent books include B. Traven: The Life Behind the Legends, The Last Frontier: Imagining Other Worlds, from the Copernican Revolution to Science Fiction, The Gender of Death, and Der Blick in die Fremde.2003 0-7734-6785-8
This book examines a number of facets of Western epitaph culture since antiquity, with particular emphasis on post-medieval developments in the major European countries as well as in North America. Various epitaphic “sub-cultures” are analyzed, among them the time-honored custom of composing one’s own tomb inscription as well as the ancient and modern convention of honoring animals with epitaphs. It also examines epitaph-collecting, epitaph “lies,” humorous epitaphs, and the change in social and religious attitudes toward suicides. The book concludes with a cultural and intellectual history of epitaphs. An epilogue addresses the question of the supposed disappearance of epitaph culture at the present time.