Image of a third-century BCE coin depicting, on one side, Alexander the Great as the Egyptian god Amun and, on the other, the Greek goddess Athena holding the goddess Nike (Victory), © The Trustees of the British Museum.
Human beings have long imagined undoing the mortality of our bodies. We tell stories of gods, androids, and zombies, entities which variously embody the profits and the perils of immortality. We create technologies, such as photographs and social media accounts, that contribute to celebrity and status that transcend our corporeality and even keep us alive in the memories of others. This tutorial traces the phenomenon of immortality across five continents from antiquity (in the literature and art of ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome) to today (in science fiction films).
Why I’m Teaching This Topic
I chose this subject because much of my recent research and thinking has focused on imagination. I’m interested in how imagining what doesn’t exist inspires not only literature and art but also political movements and scientific ambitions. What better way to understand imagination than exploring how different cultures have conceived of something we may desire but will likely never achieve in any literal sense: immortality?
– Dustin Dixon