Monday, January 24, 2011

On Death and Dying

Flipping through the most recent issue of the Columbia University alumni magazine, I noticed a brief article focusing on a former law professor of mine from Rutgers Law School--Newark, Norman Cantor. Professor Cantor's seminar, Death and Dying, was a course that was justifiably well regarded by Rutgers students.

Professor Cantor has just published a new book, After We Die: The Life and Times of the Human Cadaver, whose cover illustrates this blog post. According to the Columbia piece, in his book, "Cantor conducts a legal and historical examination of the disposition and treatment of the human corpse that leaves no stone unturned." The interview with Cantor was conducted at Bodies: The Exhibition in Lower Manhattan. The exhibit is not for the faint of heart. Again from the Columbia piece,

Inside the dimly lit rooms of the gallery were about 20 human bodies in various stages of dissection, preserved through the technique of plastination, by which water and lipids are replaced with polymers and dies. The finished product is both remarkably lifelike and strangely inhuman. Facial features are erased in the process, destroying individuality.

My daughter the scientist has been to the Bodies exhibit, but it's not the kind of thing I am eager to pay to see. Call me squeamish. However, it was interesting to read Cantor's reaction to the exhibition, and to learn about the origins of his interest in the disposition of the body after death. I enjoyed catching up with a favorite professor through this brief but compelling article.

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