Myth and Meaning
This is a posting I made to the international
Classics Discussion list on the internet on January 19, 2004:
For a while now I have been
struck by the ways in which cultures honor their dead...I do visit
cemeteries for views of private responses (one day I will post my images
of the cemetery in Rome where Keats, etc, are buried - the etc includes a
son of Goethe) , but I am most interested in public memorials to groups of
people lost - soldiers as well as innocents and how the ancient memorials
influence modern ones. (In one of my web lectures, I compare Maya Lin's
Vietnam War Memorial in DC to the memorial at Marathon).
When I first saw the
plans for the World Trade Center memorial ("Reflecting Absence"), I
immediately thought of the memorial in the Bebelplatz in Berlin, designed
to commemorate the burning of condemned books in the plaza by university
students on May 10, 1933, a fire that became a conflagration (in fact, a
Holocaust). The Israeli sculptor Micha Ullman designed it in 1994. You
peer into it from street level (through plexiglass), and all it is are
empty library shelves. Reflecting Absence indeed. Here is my image of
But tooling around on the
nytimes website I found this article by
which connects our sense of loss to, believe it or not, the loss felt by
"Reflecting Absence puts us in mind of societies
where birth and death were understood to be two aspects of life. That is
its signal virtue. Though it outlines the specifics of a contemporary
tragedy, the design draws deeply upon historical memory.
This gazer into Mr. Arad's pool sees the reflections
of a usable myth. Artists like Frank Gehry and Twyla Tharp nudged me in
this direction in late 2001.
urged me to read Seneca, but Marcus Aurelius proved more helpful. Where
have we come from? Where are we going? What is the nature of this place?
How does a city find its bearings when East meets West?
Ms. Tharp boxed my ears until I admitted that
continuity matters more than rupture, especially at times when rupture
isn't hard to find. She suggested reading Carl Kerenyi's "Eleusis," a
Jungian study of the religious center of ancient Athens. Subtitled
"Archetypal Image of Mother and Daughter," the book characterizes the
Eleusian mysteries, which were initiated by Demeter's search for
Persephone, as a quest for identity."
full article with lots of
other classical refs at:
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