Abstract

New York City’s 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire memorial march and 2001’s spontaneously erected post-9/11 city-shrine occurred during vastly different eras of Western mourning theory and practice, yet were mourned with markedly similar emotional outpourings of disbelief, grief, and outrage. The Triangle factory memorial march epitomizes collective mourning richly invested in Victorian mourning traditions, reflecting how mourners of this era were willing to feel grief, remain tied to the lives of those grieved, and be reminded of the physicality of loss. Beginning in 1913, Freud’s work reinvents the theory and practice of loss and mourning, medicalizing and pathologizing Victorian mourning rituals, branding them uncivilized and taboo. Soon thereafter post-Freudian notions of loss and mourning take firm root, stand strong today, and moreover gain strength as new mourning-based pathologies are added to the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic manual. A direct contrast, I argue post-9/11 Manhattan city-shrine mourning practices evidence a crack in Freudian theory’s armor allowing for the resurgence of pre-Freudian, Victorian mourning rituals. As a result, nearly a century after the Triangle fire memorial march, the post-9/11 city-shrine reflects not the post-Freudian, sanitized, modern-day notion of mourning one might expect, but hearkens backward in time to the pre-Freudian mourning practices of Victorians. I reveal, document, and analyze modern-day mourners’ calling-into- question of Freudian mourning theory, arguing this questioning’s significance in the present historical moment, examining the post-9/11 city-shrine’s marked similarities to Victorian-era mourning practices, and offering, I argue, a distinct sign of an unsentimental cultural re-humanizing of loss.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-1897
Print ISSN
0022-4529
Pages
pp. 573-592
Launched on MUSE
2014-03-12
Open Access
No
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