At this year’s conference of the International Society for Religion, Literature and Culture, Re-Imagining Human, Sigrid Weigel (Center for Literary and Cultural Research, TU Berlin) presented a pre-view of her forthcoming book, in which she will develop an iconographic genealogy of the notion of ‘compassion’. In an intriguing journey through her collection of images of mourning people in ancient Greece, in the Christian tradition and in contemporary mass media she showed remarkable similarities, in particular at the level of gestures, on the one hand and differences on the other (e.g., tears only appear in Renaissance paintings).
In Weigel’s perspective, the question what it means to be human ultimately comes down to a verse from the traditional hymn Stabat mater. When beholding the miseries of Christ’s mother, the medieval author asks us: Quis est homo qui non fleret? (‘Who is the human being who would not weep?’). The human being is that being who can and should ‘weep-with’, be com-passionate, co-suffer.
Weigel’s lecture COMpassio. Pathos Formula of Mourning and the Shaping of a Cultural Habitus was delivered at Re-Imagining Human, the 17th Conference for the International Society for Religion, Literature and Culture, hosted by Anthropos Research Group, Faculties of Theology and Arts, KU Leuven, 18-20 September 2014.