Challenging the death taboo Dr Ruth Penfold-Mounce, Department of Sociology, University of York
Ever since she discovered that a Wiltshire doctor had kept the arm of a notorious murderer and left it in his attic, criminologist Ruth Penfold-Mounce has been intrigued by the power that the dead – and especially the celebrity and criminal dead – exert over the living.
She challenges the assumption that polite British society does not talk about or engage with death. Instead, we are in thrall to it. From the national outpouring of grief at the death of Princess Diana to the growth in representations of zombie and vampires that exploits our fascination with the dead, Ruth shows how popular culture shapes our representations of corpses, making death commonplace, banal and far from taboo.