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Communicative Resurrection: Letters to the Dead in the Israeli Newspaper: Communicative Resurrection: Letters to the Dead



By studying letters written to the dead published in the popular Israeli press between 1997 and 2014, this paper examines the practices that constitute communicative acts toward a deceased person using interpersonal and mass media, in order to embody the recipiency of the dead. Using an analytical framework that draws on media ecology, communication theory, and discourse analysis, the paper demonstrates how the epistolary and mass media rhetoric operate to reconstruct the performance of the dead as an addressee. By exploring this understudied phenomenon and revisiting core notions of communication in light of written technologies, distance, and death, the paper argues that this communicative constellation, as a whole, is a performative act that offers a “communicative resurrection” to the dead.
Journal of Communication ISSN 0021-9916
Communicative Resurrection: Letters to the
Dead in the Israeli Newspaper
Carolin Aronis
Department of Communication Studies, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1783, USA
By studying letters written to the dead published in the popular Israeli press between 1997
and 2014, this paper examines the practices that constitute communicative acts toward a
deceased person using interpersonal and mass media, in order to embody the recipiency
of the dead. Using an analytical framework that draws on media ecology, communication
theory, and discourse analysis, the paper demonstrates how the epistolary and mass media
rhetoric operate to reconstruct the performance of the dead as an addressee. By exploring
this understudied phenomenon and revisiting core notions of communication in light of
written technologies, distance, and death, the paper argues that this communicative con-
stellation, as a whole, is a performative act that oers a “communicative resurrection” to
the dead.
Keywords: Letter, Newspaper, Death, Distance, Written Word, Technology, Recipiency,
Connectivity, Movement, Materiality, Communicative Resurrection, Performative Act.
Writing, talking, and singing to the dead, with no expectation of getting their
written to the dead in ancient Egypt, to modern eulogies, pop songs (e.g., Eric
Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” [Clapton & Jennings, 1992]), grati in public spaces,
and online notes on social media, the dead are constantly being addressed in the
second person and present tense, oen in the public sphere. By exploring a set of
72 letters to the dead published in Israeli newspapers between 1997 and 2014, this
article analyzes the practices that both perform a communicative act toward the dead
and embody their recipiency. Considering the integration between interpersonal (the
letter) and mass media (the newspaper) through their respective rhetorical practices
and functions, the article demonstrates ve practices that enable and constitute
this act of communication: (1) rhetorically positioning the dead as an addressee,
Corresponding author: Carolin Aronis, e-mails:; carolin.
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Communicative Resurrection: Letters to the Dead C. Aronis
(2) emphasizing the baing tension between the living and the dead, (3) drawing on
the connectivity and movement of both media, (4) using the newspaper’s readership
to support that “broken” communicative act, and (5) drawing on the legitimacy,
importance, and validation the newspaper provides. ese practices operationalize
distance as a constitutive parameter of this communicative act, while language
and other representational systems function to “resurrect” the dead as a recipient.
is article argues that the communicative practice itself, in this particular setting
that integrates interpersonal and mass communication, constitutes the being of the
dead in the living communicative realm. e dead cannot exist prior to the act of
communication, but are constituted by it. In other words, this unique constellation of
communication is in fact what Austin (1962) called a “performative utterance”— the
creation of reality by the use of words, and in this case by diverse representational
systems. I suggest that we view these letters to the dead, as a whole, as a signicant
performative utterance that creates what I call a “communicative resurrection.”
Israeli letters to the dead
Letters to the dead have been published in the popular Israeli press since the late
1990s, and have become increasingly prevalent since 2010. ey address people
articles, and opinion pieces. Sometimes they are located in a special section of the
newspaper. e authors use the second person and present tense to address the dead,
and submit their otherwise private letters for publication. Accordingly, these letters
have become common artifacts of Israeli journalistic coverage of wars, terrorist
attacks, natural disasters, public health crises, and military accidents. ey oen
coincide with the ocial Israeli Memorial Days for the Fallen Soldiers and Victims
of Terrorism (Yom Hazikaron).
high death rates due to the tragic consequences of terror and war. Usually written by
ordinary people, the letters describe deep emotions of longing and emptiness, stories
of coping and remembrance, and even news updates since the person’s death. ey
that they watch over the living or wait for the living to join them. ese published
letters present a sophisticated form of communication in which a grieving person
sends a message to a dead addressee who is unable to receive that message, at least
it demonstrates are exposed to uncountable readers who are essentially strangers to
the ocial addressor and addressee, and who are reconstructed as “eavesdroppers.”
Writing to the dead is an interesting and challenging communicative practice by itself,
complicated here by positioning the letters in the midst of the public sphere. is
practice foregrounds meaningful issues in the intersection of written technologies,
interpersonal-mass communication, death, and recipiency.
2Journal of Communication (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association
C. Aronis Communicative Resurrection: Letters to the Dead
In November 2003, for instance, the popular newspaper Yediot Aharonot pub-
Israel. A vitamin deciency in Remedia brand baby formula had caused health prob-
lems and a few deaths, and the newspaper published a letter from a grieving mother.
Where newspaper readers expected to see an editorial criticizing the event or giving a
new point of view about it, there was instead a letter to a deceased child: “My Avishai,
/Only two months ago you were born. A healthy, perfect and beautiful baby. I carried
you in my womb for nine months, you became an inseparable part of my life and my
soul. How I waited for your arrival” (Ziser, 2003a, p. 1, emphasis in original). Among
coverage of the medical issues, the accident at the food companies, etc., this clear voice
of maternal victimhood was unique and almost unbearable to perceive. Did she think
her child would read the letter? Did she mean for the newspaper’s audience to read it
as well as or instead of her child? What communicative essence is constituted in writ-
ing the name of a dead loved one, composing a letter to him or her, and then sending
Earlier scholarship on these topics dealt mainly with the performances of the dead
in electronic media (Gunn, 2004; Kittler, 1999; Sconce, 2000), with the sociocultural
implications of reciprocal communication with the dead within the Spiritualism
Movement (Gitelman, 1999; Natale, 2016; Peters, 1999; Sconce, 2000; Sword, 2002),
nication (Peters, 1999). However, the communicative practice of addressing the dead
in letters or other interpersonal communication formats, through words published
in the public sphere, has not been signicantly studied. is article uses analytical
methods that emphasize processes of conceptualization within the study of practices
of communication. e specic methods include a wide range of textual analyses,
along with attention to material and spatial aspects within the texts and their contexts.
Specically, the analytical framework draws on media ecology, communication the-
ory, discourse analysis, and the relationship between them. In the following sections,
I introduce my case study in relation to the historical and cultural practice of commu-
nicating with the dead, and give a theoretical background for the relationship among
written technology, distance, and death. Following an explanation of the analytical
framework, I describe ve elements that constitute the recipiency of the dead. e
article concludes with insights about the fruitful relationship between the two media
discussed therein, and further explores the practice of “communicative resurrection.”
The communicative act toward the dead: Historical and cultural
e prevalence of letters written to the dead in the Israeli newspapers makes it log-
ical to include them in an academic inquiry of the Israeli culture and its changing
practices of bereavement, commemoration, and memorialization, especially within
the wearisome cycle of wars and bloodshed (Ben-Ari & Bilu, 2012; Bilu & Witztum,
2000; Hermoni & Lebel, 2012; Katriel, 1994; Weiss, 1997). While I plan to return to
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Communicative Resurrection: Letters to the Dead C. Aronis
nontraditional view on the communicative act itself. Addressing the dead is an inter-
esting venue for understanding the essence of communication, as these letters not
only oer commemoration but address a void or a nonresponsive/existent addressee,
complicating our notions of recipiency and the rhetorical function of media commu-
e ancient Egyptians wrote letters to their deceased relatives and positioned the
letters in their tombs, beside the head of the dead, at least as early as 2686– 2181 BC
(University College London, 2002a, 2002b). ese letters usually reminded the dead
of the good treatment their bodies received and the respectful burial ritual and set-
ting. en the letters included a request for the dead person to help solve the writer’s
problems or those of her/his living relatives. e Egyptian letters are an example of
practice in many ancient cultures and religions, as well as some contemporary ones
(Walter, 2009). Much evidence suggests that these relations were common in African,
Japanese, and Chinese religions, as well as in some sects of Christianity. ese beliefs
the aerlife, or the realm of death, while the living, as a result of their good care of the
dead, can benet by consulting with the dead for guidance. From the Aztec culture
of central Mexico to England in the 16th century, the living have addressed the dead
through rituals, frequently utilizing dark spaces, candles, mirrors, crystal balls, and
prayers by both priests and ordinary people (Kastenbaum, 2001). ese “connecting”
objects and rituals could be perceived as technologies facilitating practices of com-
munication with the dead.
In North America and the United Kingdom, the 19th century Spiritualist
movement— the practice of reaching spirits, ghosts, and the dead in general
demonstrated contact with the dead’s spirits by meditation, séances, and/or prayer,
naming the communicators “mediums” (Emmons, 2009). As Natale (2016) showed,
the “medium” commonly claimed to function as a “channel of communication with
the otherworld” (p. 132), “communicating” the dead’s memoirs, journalistic articles,
and instructions to the living. Writing played a dominant role: Not only were séances
texts “through” and “by” the medium, a practice that was called “automatic writing”
(p. 126). In this practice the medium, usually in a trance and not fully conscious,
wrote the spirits’ words. Another common practice was “direct writing” (p. 127),
when the spirit’s writing appeared magically by itself on a hidden paper or the like.1
In his book Haunted Media: Electronic Presence From Telegraphy to Television,
Sconce (2000) ascribed the rise of Spiritualism to electronic media, particularly what
was known as the “spiritual telegraph” (Sconce, 2000; see also Peters, 1999). It is not
surprising that communication with the dead has a lot to do with media technolo-
gies, especially electronic ones. Just as McLuhan (1964) saw television as abolishing
distance, Sconce argued that electronic media is perceived to abolish an even greater
distancethe distance of death. e capability of electronic technologies to defeat
4Journal of Communication (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association
C. Aronis Communicative Resurrection: Letters to the Dead
these technologies could also “defeat the seemingly unassailable temporal and spatial
void of death itself” (Sconce, 2000, p. 12). Sconce showed how electronic media that
are based on an “ethereal ‘presence’ of communications without bodies,” like the tele-
graph and wireless radio, promised “live contact with distant frontiers” (p. 11), and
were perceived as giving voice and presence to “invisible entities” (p. 10), including
the dead.
can leaders, who at the time believed in the entwinement of magic and science (Natale,
2016), in later years Spiritualism was mainly met with skepticism in an increasingly
scientic society. e secular materialism common in northwest Europe, and to an
extent in North America, states that it is scientically impossible for the living to
communicate with the dead because the dead no longer exist (Walter, 2009). is
feared, or prayed to, memorials and commemorations are largely practiced instead,
vate and personal realm (see also Hallam & Hockey, 2001). A mourner may talk to
a deceased partner, parent, or child, but privately, or at the graveside where only few
people are around. Caring for the grave, by keeping it clean and adding fresh ow-
ers, may be experienced as a way to continue one’s care for the deceased.2Since the
1990s secular psychological theories of grief have encouraged mourners to continue
various kinds of bonds with the dead (Walter, 2009). is has opened up a legitimacy
for communication with the dead, which is seen in terms of a psychological need.
Contemporary practices include writing letters to the deceased person and/or empty
chair work— going through an exercise in which one imagines the deceased person
to be sitting beside him or her in an empty chair, and talking to the person as if he or
she were still alive (Range, 2001).
Currently, it seems more common to address the dead through words, written or
spoken, using public media and mass communication technologies, without expect-
ing a direct response.3I would like to position my case study of letters to the dead in
this context. Relying on practices that commemorate the dead but at the same time
resemble communication with them, the letters in the Israeli newspapers demonstrate
a communicative act toward the dead through a combination of interpersonal (letter)
and mass media (newspaper). e writers of these letters do not ask for advice or guid-
ance from the dead. e letters are not placed close to the dead in the cemetery or in
others’ spaces and creates a public sphere of their own. e authentic voice of the
a personal tragedy as part of the national tragedy, gives a dierent setting and context
to this kind of interaction. In this setting, and especially in the context of a newspaper
that reports on “what happened in the world” (what Austin [1962] termed “constative
utterances”), the “communication” with the dead is put in doubt: It is an illusion, a
demonstration of a fantasy, as if to say “if only this interaction could have happened.”
Journal of Communication (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association 5
Communicative Resurrection: Letters to the Dead C. Aronis
Published in the newspaper as part of the immediate coverage of a tragic event (such
as a terrorist attack or a wildre), or as part of a national memorial for wars that hap-
pened many years ago, they certainly reect grieving and memorializing purposes.
While most of the letters do not emphasize criticism, they could be seen as a
journalistic practice used to criticize wars, the unfairness of life, sorrow, and the ter-
rible price society must pay for accidents, terror, etc. However, by uniquely and even
poetically covering a tragic event that took a life, these letters emphasize both the
creative practices of communication toward the dead and the role of the newspa-
per in the reaching out to the “nowhere” and “anywhere,” highlighting the complex
paths of recipiency. Specically, although these messages do not reach their intended
addressees, in a way they create new recipients by their publication. is is done
through a reciprocal relationship between the interpersonal and the mass, between
the material and the immaterial, and between the possibility and impossibility of this
kind of communication.
The technology of writing, distance, and death
Unlike the written communication of Spiritualism, which included an expectation
for the dead’s performance, the very practice of writing a letter to the dead and
distributing it in the newspaper constitutes a void, distance, and gaps, while at the
same time symbolizing practices of connection. Electronic and/or recording media
like the telegraph, the telephone, the phonograph, and the television brought the
promise or illusion of overcoming the distance between the living and the dead
and bringing back the dead’s voices (Gitelman, 1999; Gunn, 2004; Kittler, 1999;
Peters, 1999; Sconce, 2000).4However, the process of writing the discussed letters
does not include an expectation for the dead to appear, to reply, or to exist. Written
communications, such as books or letters, presume a void, an inherent distance, that
is perceived as unbridgeable. Ong (1982) argued that writing by itself establishes an
unbridgeable distance, which some theoreticians have equated with death (Peters,
1999, following Ralph Waldo Emerson). In his study of the change from orality to
literacy, Ong claimed that the written word itself creates a “distancing” (p. 102), as
it is always separated from its original rich existential context of speaking, from
the past of its creation, and from the future of its interpretation. What McLuhan
(1964) dened as the division of experience and the exchange of the ear for an eye,
Ong (1982) described as the “reduction of dynamic sound to quiescent space, the
separation of the word from the living present, where alone spoken words can exist”
the intended reader, could be dead, but the text would keep going as a monument,
distant from them both in the communicative act (Ong, 1977).
A text, whether handwritten or printed, also suers from a disconnection between
the past and its reading time: “Unlike an utterance, a text is assimilated by the person
6Journal of Communication (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association
C. Aronis Communicative Resurrection: Letters to the Dead
who receives it not when it is being composed but aer its utterance (its ‘outering’) is
over with” (Ong, 1977, p. 421). e person being addressed as present is absent, and
when that person reads the text, the writer will be absent. Ong (1977) encouraged us
to understand a text through its materiality: “Not just what a text says, but the physical
text itself,” he wrote, “possesses a certain pastness. All texts are preterite” (p. 421).
Because of this pastness, the text “carries with it necessarily an aura of accomplished
death” (p. 421). For Ong, this death is rst located within the text itself, characterized
by words that are no longer audible and real. ey are torn from the situation where
they were rst set down.5
While this distance between the context of its creation and the context of its read-
ing is an existential part of the written word, other scholars also saw a distance in the
reduction of meaning that characterized the written word, as modes of social inter-
action “cannot survive translation into words without loss” (Peters, 2015, p. 270),
and “[t]he phonetically written word sacrices worlds of meaning and perception
(McLuhan, 1964, p. 96). In comparison to other media that oer a stronger imitation
of presence, writing has always included a signicant gap between the translated self
and the words, and the typewriter (and later the keyboard and computer) “split up
[humanity] into physiology and information technology” (Kittler, 1999, p. 16). While
the writer’s “inner forms,” this connection was lost with the mechanical typewriter
(p. 14). Kittler saw the typewriter as something that “cannot conjure up anything
imaginary, as can cinema; it cannot simulate the real as can sound recording” (Kit-
tler, 1999, p. 183). Words, and the machines that produce them, are characterized by
the common gap between the signied and the arbitrary signier.6Kittler called the
typewriter a “discourse machine gun” (p. 14). Within the context of the “haunted
electronic media (Sconce, 2000), which was perceived as bringing the dead back to
life, the typewriter appears to be a killing machine.
reduction of meanings and context, and it is the growing gap between the writer and
the reader. at distance easily translates into death. Peters (1999) argued that death
is the highest form of distance, as it stimulates the eros, or love instinct, that “seeks to
span the miles, reach into the grave, and bridge all the chasms” (Peters, 1999, p. 137).
ones, are based on distance and are so intertwined with death. Traditional letters,
like vinyl records, also represent a death of a medium, one that is “imperfect and
mortal” (Chivers Yochim & Biddinger, 2008). Hence, letters to the deceased— and
even more so those that are published in a newspaperuse an almost tautological
press, holds an inherent distance, just like the chasm between the living and the dead.
is distance is not only part of the technology and its unique character, but also part
of the realm of the dead. e writing of letters shows the paradigm of not reaching
one’s intended recipient. It constitutes a constant distance, especially as it shows the
Journal of Communication (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association 7
Communicative Resurrection: Letters to the Dead C. Aronis
potential of the communication process with the dead a potential that will never be
successfully fullled.
Ong (1977) wrote that in oral communication, both the speaker and hearer must
be alive. ough this does not account for the Spiritualist interactions with the dead,
it is true for traditional communication with living people. Ong argued that without
eective, uneventful, inoperative,” and they constitute “a movement toward nothing”
(p. 422). In his writings, Ong is more concerned with the death of the writer than of the
hearer or reader, but we can already create a perception of the supposedly “lost” com-
municative act ocially addressed to the dead. e letters studied here are ocially
addressed to dead readers; their death is known at the moment of the writing. Creating
and distributing them attempts to reconstruct an elusive and challenging interaction
with the deceased person, whether to express longing, channel grief, reshape a rela-
understanding of the relations between writing, death, and distance. In the follow-
ing sections, I explore this phenomenon specically within the context of the practice
of writing itself, with its particular materiality and immateriality: e image of the
romantic letter that never reaches its destination, the written words that will always
suer from reduction and loss, and the newspaper that will never be the right venue
for such letters but still provides substitute live readers.
Analytical framework and data overview
is analysis and discussion emerged from a study of 72 letters to the dead published
in three popular Israeli newspapers (Yedioth Ahronoth, Maariv, and Israel Hayom)and
in one Israeli religious newspaper, HaTzofe, between the years 1997 and 2014.7e
data were mainly collected in 2014 as part of a larger research project on intimacy
and mass media, but examples of the genre still exist today.8e letters were ana-
lyzed inductively, by identifying repeated elements, ideas, or concepts, and tagging
and categorizing them in an accumulative process of conceptualization.9e analysis
sought to explain the communicative operation of this constellation of the epistolary
and mass media rhetoric, and how it enables or creates the recipiency of the dead.
e letters themselves were analyzed through particular elements of their content
(e.g., opening and closing words of the letters, topics mentioned, keywords, and
headlines), through their formal aspects (e.g., the structure of the letters as a whole),
through their visual performance in the newspaper, and through their relations to
surrounding texts and visual items (e.g., the editor’s headline, photographs etc.).
Additionally, the analysis took into consideration the characteristics and operation
of the letters in relation to other journalistic items (e.g., journalistic reports, publicist
columns), other types of letters (e.g., letters to kidnapped soldiers and love letters),
and other ways of addressing the dead (e.g., through electronic media). Using a com-
municative lens, the analysis considered practices of interaction between the writer,
the dead, and the newspaper readership. It also highlighted several practices of media
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C. Aronis Communicative Resurrection: Letters to the Dead
production: interpersonal and mass written technologies, letters and newspapers,
routes of dissemination, and the practice of reading and being addressed.
and private communication between the writer and his or her beloved relative. ese
texts do not follow the common rules of journalistic writing, wherein a journalist
interviews sources and mediates their responses. In this case, the journalist’s voice is
mostly nonexistent, and we are le with the almost-pure voice of an ordinary person,
expressed in his or her own emotional, sometimes grammatically incorrect words,
about issues that are normally not intended for the public eye (or for the public’s
interest). e letters oen include descriptions of the event that caused the deceased’s
death, the dicult moment when the writer received the bad news about the death, or
the last time that the writer saw the deceased person. Each letter has a rich description
of the feelings of absence and emptiness brought about by the death, and oen they
only a great openness and ease about talking with the dead, but also a commitment
letters emphasize the virtues of the deceased and show pride in him or her. Some-
times they also include criticisms of the parties that caused or did not prevent the
death. Each letter ends with warm words and frequently addresses the new “status”
or “place” of the dead person for example, as a guardian from above (Farkash,
2011), a second inner voice (Goldwasser, 2008), or a spirit that oats in the sky
(Ben Shem, 2011).
Five operative elements that constitute the recipiency of the dead emerged from
the analysis:
1 Positioning the dead as an addressee
On 8 May 2011, a letter from Amitai was published in Yedioth Ahronoth.She
had lost her father Yaron, 45-year-old, 5 years earlier in the Second Lebanon War.
Dad,” she opens the letter, “on this kind of day I would rather not write you simple
words. Even though I speak to you quietly almost every day, in my heart, I am
certain that you hear me. Down on paper it is much harder” (p. 11, emphasis in
original).10 is letter was published on Yom Hazikaron, when the country oers
respect to those who perished in wars, terrorist attacks, or while protecting their
country. is letter received a whole page in the newspaper that day. Most of the
page shows a photograph of Amitai, 19, standing on a hill in the country, wearing
casual clothing and sandals. She has a braid resting on one of her shoulders and she
is gazing into the distance with a sad look on her face, but one of a survivor. On
the le side of the page is a small photograph of her father in uniform, wearing a
military helmet and running with his weapon in the eld, while other soldiers follow
him. e letter itself appears in the bottom-le corner of the page, between the two
communication with him, and how she cries both to him and for him. She also asks
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Communicative Resurrection: Letters to the Dead C. Aronis
her father not to worry about her brothers: “I am proud of them for you. And also of
her name.
As this example shows, the published letters reect the conventions of written
letters, including using signatures in the closing. ey start with “you” and end with
“I” (Adams, 2007), and the main text of the letters is a mixture of issues relating to
a convenient practice of letter writing, however, receives here a deeper meaning. e
nor in the potential moment of reading. But like Amitai’s letter, the letters address
my love,” wrote Vishinski (2009, p. 3); “My dear husband, Paskal,” wrote Avrahami
(2012, p. 12); and “Koby my dear brother,” wrote Ben-Shem (2012, p. 13). Who are
“Lior,” “Paskal,” and “Koby”? Where are they as supposed readers of the texts? e
dead are constituted in these epistolary texts as actual addressees, seemingly being
brought to the living dimension of the letter and taken out from their nothingness
(the realm of absence).
e writing also uses the present tense, even if it refers to the past or future. Ziser
(2003b, p. 17) wrote, “My dear Avishai, I could not protect you in your life, but I
promise you [or “I am promising you”], I will do everything to protect you in your
death.” All the discussed letters use an intriguing combination of the simple present
and present progressive tenses, as there is no grammatical dierence between them
constituting a present recipiency. Although using the present tense is a common prac-
tice in letter writing, in this case it suggests an additional and complex meaning. In
his essay on the discourse of love letters and the notion of absence, Barthes (1978)
[T]he other is absent as referent, present as allocutory. is singular distortion generates a
kind of insupportable present; I am wedged between two tenses, that of the reference and
that of the allocution: you have gone (which I lament), you are here (since I am addressing
you). (p. 15)
and pleasant practice that gives comfort to the writer and reestablishes communica-
in letters to the deceased that part is missing. ere is no future of reading, touch-
ing, or receiving the letter. Some letters also include the imagined voice of the dead
responding in the interaction: In a letter to her sons, Peretz (2010, p. 14) wrote, “I
hear your voice saying to me, [ ] continue, live— for your sake.” e distant, deci-
sive presence of the dead in the epistolary text is just that: rough the letter the dead
earns his or her “existence” in the epistolary space, but not beyond it. But even this is
much more than the total absence that death has to oer.
10 Journal of Communication (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association
C. Aronis Communicative Resurrection: Letters to the Dead
2 e baing tension between the living and dead
e letters position the dead as the addressees but at the same time acknowledge
their absence, highlighting the baing tension between life and death, and between
relative materiality and immateriality. For instance, the letters oen close with a warm
expression toward the dead: “Love [you] very very much, / Mom” (Vishinski, 2009,
p. 3); “I promise you we will be strong for you. Love and miss [you] forever, / Sima”
(Avrahami, 2012, p. 12); “Hugging, kissing, loving and continuing, / Mom” (Peretz,
2010, p. 14). e direct address and the present tense are here as well, but the farewell
ritual of words that index warmth, love, and touch causes a separation between the
living and the dead, and between the writer and addressee: e writer is “continuing”
while the dead “reader” is allegedly staying. Vishinski wrote to her son, “Wait for me
Lior, I will come, I promise, it is only a matter of time, and you know, the time passes
quickly” (Vishinski, 2009, p. 3), implying that Lior is in a dierent realm, one not
available to the living.
e material aspects play an important role here. e letters emphasize the phys-
ical embodiment of the writers’ emotions, or, in Milne’s words, the “real ‘esh and
blood’ corporeality of the epistolary actors” (Milne, 2010, p. 14). is common rhetor-
ical practice provides, in this case, physicality to the letters’ very spiritual communica-
tion. Amitai (2011, p. 10) wrote about her tears “starting to oat and to ood, and the
letters on the keyboard become blurred.” It ends up giving her a headache. In another
letter, Lieutenant Colonel Alef wrote to Captain Poraz, who died in 1994 while res-
cuing a kidnapped soldier. Alef described the actual moments of writing the letter:
how tears were ooding his eyes and how his body was “shrinking inward from long-
ing” (Alef, 2013, p. 2). In a dierent letter, Pe’er-Reznik wrote to her dad, “I absorbed
[your] absence as a limb that was torn from my body” (Pe’er-Reznik, 2012, p. 18).
ese physical descriptions of the body are accompanied by descriptions of the mate-
rial settings that illustrate the pain and absence the writers feel. Farkash (2011) wrote
about the orphaned chair at the table, while Toledano (2011) wrote that she is afraid
represents the physical absence of the intended reader— the deceased personfrom
the here and now of the writer. is gap is rendered even more signicant by the
deceased persons complete absence: e deceased is not only gone from the writer’s
physical space, but also from life itself.
Along with emphasizing materiality, the letters show the elusiveness of the
addressee, his or her presence and absence in the life of the writer, and, sometimes,
assumptions about the deceased’s current place or state of being. In Amitais (2011)
letter she described the image of her father coming to her mind, including his shape
and movement: “e darkness has fallen, and it seems that everything is still. e
mountains, the valley, the sky, everything is silent to your image that moves in
my memory, sometimes slow, sometimes fast, sometimes clearly” (p. 11, emphasis in
original). She told him that she sometimes imagines him as an angel, wearing white
and ying, sometimes with a tie on as if he is going to work. Vishinski (2009) told her
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Communicative Resurrection: Letters to the Dead C. Aronis
deceased son that he appears to her in her dreams and they hug, and Gronich (2012)
wrote to his brother Yaron that for years he tried to reach him in his dreams but had
existence is combined with a sense of absence; these are stronger senses than those
carried in more traditional letters (e.g., between distant lovers) in that these letters
deeply address existential being and its fragility.
Toledano (2011) emphasized the fragility between her husband’s absence and his
potential existence. She wrote about his place in the grave, but imagined him still
present with her and her children: “I would have given anything for you to be here for
them. God, what it would have done for them!” (p. 10). Yairi (2012) wrote about the
strange, dichotomic feeling of absence and presence, portraying her relationship with
with you” (p. 6), she admitted, explaining that writing a letter is not a normal thing
aer his death:
I’ve heard your answers to questions that I’ve asked you, until I became much older than
you. I’ve stopped expecting answers from you. I was afraid you wouldn’t even recognize the
wordsthatweuseanymore,certainlynotourdailyreality.[] e time of your absence [
] is deceiving. As if it is coming back, as if it is standing still, as if it is part of the present.
(p. 6)
sion of the deceased person’s presence and the doubts about their absence. It is the
fragile dierence between existence and nonexistence, and the constant switching
back and forth between the intended recipient’s absence and presence. How can we
understand the inherent contradiction of being present in the epistolary sense, but
absent from the materiality of life? Of being present in the heart and mind, but absent
from the physical setting of daily reality? e existence of the addressee is deceptive,
and this leads both the writer and reader astray.
How can we understand our relationship with the dead through these letters?
What kinds of communication do they bring to life? We cannot truly answer
these questions without understanding the context of these letters in the newspa-
per setting: ey are deeply personal communications that have been embedded
within —and that benet from —a medium of mass communication. As a supportive
means for the operation of the letters, the newspapers sustain tensions between
the living and the dead, and between the past and present, by including a short
description of the deceased and the context of his or her death. Oen the letters
also include photographs: e deceased is usually seen in old/dated photographs,
side by side with a current picture of the writer (as for instance in Amitai’s 2010
letter, described earlier). e letter that Pe’er-Reznik (2012) wrote to her dad, whom
she lost when she was 2 or 3 years old, is accompanied by a full-color current
photograph of her and two old photographs of her dad, including one where he’s
holding her. e dierences between the colors of the photographs, and between
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C. Aronis Communicative Resurrection: Letters to the Dead
the images of her as a child and as a grown-up, broaden the gap between the past
and the present, between her current life and the life she used to have with him.
However, the genetic relationship between them, evident in their signicant phys-
ical similarities, reminds the newspaper readership of the biological relationship
between the writer and her dead father. e format of the letter in the newspa-
per creates a special, intimate relationship, not only a correspondence (Barthes,
1978) but one that crosses times and seemingly blurs the border between life
and death.
3 Connectivity and movement
Drawing upon Media Ecology, which focuses on “how media of communica-
tion aect human perception, understanding, feeling, and value” and emphasizes
media environments that “consist of techniques as well as technologies, symbols
as well as tools, information systems as well as machines” (Postman, as cited in
Strate, 2006, p. 17), I would like to oer another point of view on the media of
the letter and the newspaper and their relationship within the current case study.
Although Amitai— and most likely the other writers as well—wrote their texts
on a computer, sitting in front of a screen and typing on a keyboard, the concept
on materiality, and movement. e word “letter” and its format carry with it
images like paper, smooth or coarse to the touch; a pen; ink; the act of writing
by hand; an envelope, stamp, and mailbox; a mail carrier; and the letter’s physi-
cal, geographical journey as it travels to its destination. A letter written to a dead
person and sent out by mail would probably get lost, returned to the sender, or
nd itself in a “dead letter oce” in the post oce (Peters, 1999). Considering
the potential “paper routes” (McLuhan, 1964) of such a letter, it would practi-
cally get to nowhere. A letter to the dead, as it is, is actually a dead letter, a letter
with a dead end.
When we see a letter in the popular press, as in this case study, it is not a traditional
letter but the content of one medium (the letter) embedded in another medium (news-
paper), a concept Bolter and Grusin call “remediation” (Bolter & Grusin, 1999). In
as its content (see also Barton & Hall, 2000, for recontextualization of letters in other
arenas).11 us, the newspaper remediates the letter, also when it adds photographs.
In this case, it seems that the newspaper as a technology refashions the letter, but
keeps it under the logic of hypermediacy which emphasizes the two distinct media.
e letter is prominent in the newspaper, as its format and content do not disappear
within the journalistic texts. To explore these relationships, I focus rst on the prac-
not only written dierently than paper but also delivered dierentlyit was proba-
bly not sent through the post oce, but through e-mail. Similarly, it was not sent to
the ocial addressee of the letter, who is deceased, but instead to a journalist or the
Journal of Communication (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association 13
Communicative Resurrection: Letters to the Dead C. Aronis
newspaper’s editorial sta. A letter in the newspaper symbolizes the materiality of let-
two places, and two dierent time zones and realms. Yet, without the newspaper the
letter has no real destiny.
e rst relevant attribute of the newspaper as a mass medium is its nature of
connectivity,or,tobemoreprecise,itssuccessful connectivity. Because a letter to a
deceased person will never reach its intended addressee, the newspaper must provide
that great elemental virtue of connection between places, times, and people. Tom-
linson (1999), who examined the concept of connectivity as it refers to globalization
and the connection between geographical places and faraway people, discussed the
idea of “global-spatial proximity” (p. 3) through the media. He referenced Marx and
Giddens and “the idea of the ‘stretching’ of social relations across distance” (see also
Moores, 2005). ese dierent descriptions all express, as Tomlinson wrote, “a sense
physically (for instance, via air travel) or representationally (via the transmission of
electronically mediated information and images), to cross them” (Tomlinson, 1999,
p. 3). In this sense, the newspaper, even without being an electronic medium, oers
global-spatial proximity” and a shrinking– stretching way to connect distant spaces
and people. Understanding the newspaper as a medium to help build what McLuhan
termed a global village, a compressional world, or a global embrace (McLuhan, 1962,
1964)or even drawing on Cooley’s early thought of the newspaper as a creator of
great unity (Cooley, 1909; Peters, 1989)— the newspaper promises a path of com-
from afar.
ese letters to the dead embody the wish to establish specic connections
between the writers and their dearly departed loved ones, but instead they reach
a community. However, the medium of the letter does not work alone; the mass
medium of the newspaper generates this connectivity. Usually the material con-
nectivity of a letter is restricted to a certain point in space, such as the post oce
or the e-mail inbox. It is the newspaper that provides endless destinations, endless
recipients, and endless dissemination throughout space. Stretching or shrinking, the
newspaper provides connectivity between unlimited spaces and people. It represents
the promise of sending messages to “everywhere” and “nowhere” (Sconce, 2000)
at the same time. Even though the medium of the newspaper was less historically
connection to the wide world. is oers a special sense of aliveness and connectivity
what would otherwise be “dead letters,” unread and undeliverable.
4 Readership and community
e medium of the newspaper is also valuable to the “dead letter” because of the
alternative recipiency it provides. Since the intended addressee is deceased, there are
14 Journal of Communication (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association
C. Aronis Communicative Resurrection: Letters to the Dead
ocial addressee. However, because these letters are reminiscent of the traditional
format of two people corresponding intimately, the newspaper readers can strongly
identify with the actual correspondents. Sometimes, for a brief moment, they can even
nd themselves standing in the shoes of the writer or the deceased person.
with the writer, especially in terms of experiencing death. In response to a letter that
was published in the online version of Yedioth Ahronoth,onereaderwrotetothe
writer, “I’m crying with you now. I feel what you feel” (Harel, 2012).12 e death of
we know we willit is an inevitable part of life. We all have Liors, orphaned chairs,
unbearable longings, and fantasies of communicating with our deceased loved ones.
e newspaper readers can therefore easily imagine, however briey, that they are
the“I”oftheletter,thatthey wrote it or at least could have written it. e letters do
not describe a new experience for most of us; instead, they make real a much-known
fact of life that we all face. Because of this, the readers may feel obligated to support
way, in their position, they oer to stand there for them, in the place of the writer’s
dead addressee. ey read the letter instead of the intended addressee; they provide
a recipiency where it is needed. ey place themselves, briey, in the place of the
but also how it would feel to be that deceased person. In response to letters pub-
lished in the online version of the newspapers, many readers console the writers from
a shared point of view with the deceased. In a response to a letter written to a deceased
brother, one reader wrote, “We are all brothers for you” (NRG Maariv, 2005). Simi-
You moved me very much. I’m a father to two little children and sometimes I forget how
important I am for them.
I’m sending you a fatherly warm and loving hug and hope, in vain, that nobody will ever
experience a loss like yours.
(Dad, 2012, #19)
at reader, a father himself who chose the pseudonym “Dad,” positioned himself
used to being the “you” that is addressed in the newspaper.
e communicative constellation that is reconstructed by these letters places
the readers, though not ocially addressed, in an important position in relation
to the writers and the dead. Indeed, both the letter and its ocial addressee are
dead without the readers. Ong (1977) suggested that the written text “must also
be resurrectedby interpretation, by being inserted into the lifeworld of living
Journal of Communication (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association 15
Communicative Resurrection: Letters to the Dead C. Aronis
persons” (p. 420). Communication that is based on a void, on nonreal replies, is
merely about interpreting the traces, Peters (1999) wrote. Ong (1977) argued that
dead written words have the potential to be resurrected, for new fecundities. He
exquisitely described the destiny of the written word when it becomes interrelated to
Once it has entered into the death of the text, the word becomes in countless ways more
versatile than the purely vocal, living word. It can be freed from the surface, resurrected,
variously. It can be put into more combinations because it can be retrieved from the past,
immediate or remote, and inserted into any number of times and places and thus be
combined with other words in a maze of patterns unknown to oral cultures. (p. 437)
municative act, along with the dead. e letter to a deceased addressee, which tra-
ditionally would have been destined to become a dead letter, becomes alive in the
newspaper. It is, on one hand, empowered by the newspaper’s ability to disseminate
other hand, readers provide a community for the writers and ll the roles of both the
writers and the deceased in the letters themselves. e writers know, at least, that the
newspaper readers have been touched by their letter.
5 Validation of the illusive act
ese letters create the fantasy of conversing, interacting with the beloved
deceased relatives. e writers confess to them, tell them things that they had never
told, make promises to them, and imitate their potential voices and words. On
one hand, the letters create an illusion of continuing relationships with the dead, a
rare opportunity for communication with the lost ones that receives legitimization
through the format of the letter. On the other hand, they also function in the news-
paper as evidence for the sorrow and unbearable pain of unfair death. To complete
my explanation of these communicative practices, I would like to revisit a classic
social function of mass media the status conferral asitisdescribedbyLazarsfeld
and Merton (1948/2004) in their well-known essay “Mass Communication, Popular
Taste, and Organized Social Action.” is inuential essay (Simonson, 1999; Simon-
son & Weimann, 2003) oers an important understanding of the social functions of
media, and I nd status conferral to be an important key to understanding embedded
communication with the dead in the realm of the newspaper.
It is common to summarize status conferral (Lazarsfeld & Merton, 1948/2004) as
“the fact that media enhance the social standing of the policies, persons, and groups
cover— regardless whether this coverage is favorable or not” (Simonson & Weimann,
2003, p. 23). However, in the original text, Merton (the sole author of this section of
the article) wrote not only about enhancing “social standing” but also about authority
and legitimacy:
e mass media bestow prestige and enhance the authority of individuals and groups by
legitimizing their status. Recognition by the press or radio or magazines or newsreels
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C. Aronis Communicative Resurrection: Letters to the Dead
testies that one has arrived, that one is important enough to have been singled out from the
large anonymous masses, that one’s behavior and opinions are signicant enough to require
public notice. (pp. 20 –21)
Merton focuses here on people, but I want to extend his framework to consider the
legitimacy of communicative acts. Choosing to perform these letters in the newspaper,
whose main content tends to include information and opinion pieces about the world,
bestows prestige and enhances the authority of the communicative act toward the
dead, whether intentionally or not. e status of this illusionary act is legitimized
by its inclusion in the newspaper. is does not mean that the newspaper’s readers
necessarily believe that the dead can really be reached through these letters, but they
do accept the (alleged) communication. Such an esoteric practice would not make its
way so prominently to the newspaper. But once it is in the newspaper it is prominent,
and it is legitimate.
Revisiting the notion of the status conferral as generating “public condence,”
Simonson (1999) argued that “[i]n conferring status, media bestow social objects
with a metaphorical aura, thereby making them newly available as sources of con-
dence. e aura is a distinctive glow, shared by celebrities and celebrated ideas alike,
which makes objects stand out upon the social landscape” (p. 113). Embedding “social
objects in dense webs of value, and, thus,” he explained, “generate[s] public con-
dence” (p. 112). In this case, the aura of the celebrated idea of writing letters to the dead
facilitates its becoming, in a way, a source of public condence. Any public sphere,
especially public media, legitimizes this communicative act, adding to the original
value of the letters.
rough exploring the case of letters written to the dead and published in Israeli
newspapers, this article highlights ve elements that constitute the communicative act
three main conclusions from the practices mentioned above that help characterize this
communicative resurrection.
e necessary partnership of interpersonal and mass media
e practices described above emphasize that the interpersonal communication with
the dead earns its value through the public, mass medium of the newspaper. What
Bolter and Grusin (1999) dened as hypermediacy, for example the acknowledgment
of the remediated medium, is an important element of this communicative act, which
highlights the accompanying communication technologies, spaces, and rituals. e
letter by itself, if it were addressed and mailed to the dead person, would probably
nd its way to a “dead letter oce” (Peters, 1999, p. 170) or simply get lost. Letters to
the dead do not arrive. Peters nds comfort in the idea of the dead letter oce and
in the eyes of the oce workers who would read a letter that has no end. However,
the newspaper grants the potentially lost letters much more than substitute eyes: It
Journal of Communication (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association 17
Communicative Resurrection: Letters to the Dead C. Aronis
provides an entire community, along with validation, connectivity, and movement.
Put another way, the newspaper, as a mass medium with particular characteristics,
keeps the letter alivevalidated, moved, and read in the public sphere–and manages
to challenge the essential gaps between life and death, between here and there, and
between everywhere and nowhere. Without the newspaper the letters have no signif-
icant communicative value; they express a “broken” act of communication, with no
future. Hence, this combination of interpersonal and mass media is a needed condi-
tion to lead the writing to a living end.
Overcoming death through communicative distance
Distance is at the heart of communication and media, especially written communi-
cation technologies which emphasize the distance and acknowledge it (i.e., the time
lag, spatial dierence, problems in translation, and the unreachable other). Following
Emerson, Peters (1999) argued that death is the ultimate distance in communication.
is case of letters to the dead published in newspapers engages both the distance in
communication and the distance between life and death, along with their projection
onto one another. ough it is most likely that the dead are not reachable, combining
the mere practice of communication, the medium of the letter, and the medium of the
newspaper oers the illusion of reaching them. In other words, these letters benet
usethisformattotellthemthingsthatthey had never “told” them before, sometimes
aer many years of silence.13 isformatseeminglyletsthemreachthedeadson,the
lost sister, the distant husband, in what one writer called their “dierent dimension
(Gronich, 2012). e written media underscores this distance and emphasizes the ten-
sion between the possibility and impossibility of this act of communication. However,
at the same time the distance of the media grants the feeling that the distance between
the living and the dead can be overcome.
e practice of sending messages through letters and newspapers includes
unknown ways of travel, or what McLuhan (1964) would call “paper routes” (p. 89). It
is not only the distance in time and space between the writing and reading moments,
a letter, but you never know who it will reach and where. is potential becomes
even greater with the newspaper, which can reach both “anybody” and “nobody,” and
could arrive “nowhere” and “everywhere.” Since there are so many gaps, obstacles,
and unknowns in the journey of messages, overcoming the distance of space and/or
time by media seems like it could overlap with overcoming the distance of death.
e living readers of letters and newspapers are located far away, but we know that
they might receive these messages. e dead are located even farther away, and it is
a greater mystery how, if at all, messages could reach them, but these letters cra the
illusion of being able to accomplish this goal through the inherent distance of media
18 Journal of Communication (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association
C. Aronis Communicative Resurrection: Letters to the Dead
e communicative act as resurrection
e communicative act that is constituted in this setting is a sophisticated practice of
communication which (re)constructs, among other things, the recipiency of the dead,
and functions as a performative act (following Austin, 1962) that oers a “communica-
tive resurrection” to the dead. is special practice of communication treats the dead
as an addressee, and hence as a sort of communicative entity that only exists within the
tive act itself that constitutes the dead. In other words, the dead become guratively
alive through communication. e mediated practices, the obvious direct address, the
connectivity and status conferral of the newspapers, and the readership that support
this communicative constellation— all operate to “create” the dead as a recipient and
assemble a type of “performative utterance,” in which changes in the world are being
created by the use of words, or other representational systems. Without this com-
municative act the dead would be back in the void, in nothingness. Whereas Peters
(1999) sees these kinds of communicative acts toward the dead as a “broken commu-
is willing to be created from this “broken” type of communication.
e author expresses her appreciation to the journal’s editor and reviewers for their
careful readings and very helpful suggestions. She also thanks Amit Pinchevski,
Robert Craig, John Dowd, and Kinneret Lahad for their encouragement and support.
1 See Sword (2002) for details on the notion of “ghostwriting,” an analysis of the
relationship between spirits and mediums in popular Spiritualism, and information on
the Spiritualist impact on modernist literature. See also Natale (2016) on the strong
relationship between the rise of the public entertainment industry and the séance
performances that grew out of Spiritualism.
2 It is worth pointing out that in Anglo-American society, which largely bans the dead,
subcultures that feature communications with the dead have developed (Walter, 2009).
Ghost stories, haunted houses, jangling skeletons, and misty Gothic churchyards have
been part of English and American literary and popular culture since the late 17th
century, and continue today in British Goth subculture and in Hollywood horror movies.
See also Natale (2016) about the relationship between Spiritualism, spirits, and popular
literature, theater, and cinema.
3 In her review of the practice of web memorials, Roberts (2004) mentioned the “web
cemeteries” that were founded in 1995, approximately 30% of which include letters to the
dead. Similar writings include a collection of letters to the victims of the 9/11 attacks,
entitled e Legacy Letters: Messages of Life and Hope from 9/11 Family Members (Curtis,
2011), handwritten notes for Canada’s New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton in 2011
placed at the main square outside Toronto’s City Hall (Ferenc, 2016), and of course many
Journal of Communication (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association 19
Communicative Resurrection: Letters to the Dead C. Aronis
songs and poems to the dead (e.g., Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” [Clapton & Jennings,
1992], Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind” [John & Taupin, 1997], Amit Farkash’s “A
Million Stars” [Farkash & Kerzner, 2005], and Natan Yonatan’s “Each Day I Return”
4 It is worth noting that even within Spiritualism, spirit writings were oen attributed to
ethereal and electrical forces that controlled the human “mediums,” which were activated
like a telegraph or other technologies (Natale, 2016).
5 A challenge to this argument is the Spiritualist practice of “automatic writing” in which
there is no clear distinction between the moment of writing and reading, no time lapse,
and unclear authorship.
6 Audio and video recording technologies, for example, can capture a living person’s
sounds, appearance, and motions similarly to their appearance in real life, outside of the
media. is capture is, in fact, an assemblage of iconic and indexical signs that seem to
shorten the gap between the source and its representation. In contrast, written media
such as letters and newspapers are mostly based on arbitrary, symbolic signs: words that
are mechanically produced. For dierent types of signs, see Peirce (in Sebok, 2001).
7 ere were likely many more letters published during this time. Data collection was a
challenging process as the letters were not catalogued or assigned keywords by the
newspapers themselves or by a special Israeli newspaper search program (at Beit Ariela)
since they were not written by journalists. is made it dicult to nd the relevant
material. A few letters were found by browsing the newspapers from 2008–2014, and by a
“free search” of certain keywords. As most of the letters appeared shortly aer tragic
events and before and on Memorial Days, the newspaper searches focused on these
8 Recent changes in the newspapers’ ownership and editorial boards have aected how
frequently they publish letters to the dead. For example, for the 2017 Israeli Memorial
Day the popular paper Israel Hayom, which currently has the largest daily circulation in
Israel,published ve letters (Broner, 2017, p. 21; Israel Hayom, 2017, pp. 32–33) but only
printed one in 2011 (Ben Shem, 2011). Yedioth Ahronoth published only three letter-like
poems and columns for the same occasion, but in 2011 (when it had the largest daily
circulation) it published 17 letters in a special issue devoted only to letters to the dead.
9 See for instance Grounded eory methods, in which codes are extracted from the data
and grouped into concepts and then into categories that could represent “high-level”
theoretical understandings (Charmaz, 2006; Clarke, 2005; Corbin, 2009; Glaser, 1978;
Morse et al., 2009).
10 is letter, like many others, is not written in grammatically correct Hebrew, which is a
common practice in Israeli culture. e practice shows authenticity, sincerity, and
emotional involvement (Turner, 2010; Van Leeuwen, 2001). Modern Hebrew typically
uses much more playfulness than English, especially with the use of metaphors and
creative syntax. Hence, the translation to English is somewhat limited.
11 ough Bolter and Grusin (1999) deal more with new media and visual aspects, I found
their main ideas relevant to this argument.
12 ough the vast majority of letters appeared in the printed press, I also considered
readers’ responses to the few letters that appeared in online versions of the newspapers.
13 For example, Gronich (2012) wrote to his brother Yaron, 38 years aer his death, and told
him for the rst time about the moment of getting the news of his death. He also wrote
that he tried to communicate with him for years through thoughts and dreams, but
20 Journal of Communication (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association
C. Aronis Communicative Resurrection: Letters to the Dead
nothing worked. However, in writing a letter he can now interact with him directly for the
present in a better place, as the legends tell, as the believers believe, that your being did
not desist, and that you became an existential entity in a dierent dimension” (p. 11).
Adams, J. (2007). Recovering a trashed communication genre: Letters as memory, art, and
collectible. In C. R. Acland (Ed.), Residual media (pp. 185– 199). Minneapolis, MN:
University of Minnesota Press.
Alef, L. C. (2013, 14 April). And the body, my brother Nir, is like shrinking inwards from
longing. Maariv,p.2(Hebrew).
Amitai, Y. (2011, 8 May). A whole life of remembrance. Yedioth Ahronoth, Memorial Day
Austin, J. L. (1962). Howtodothingswithwords. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press.
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... It is the border, which separates and creates the difference between realms and people, that attracts communication (Simmel 1997). Communication looks to overcome obstacles and borderlines (Peters 1999, Aronis 2017. Or, if we push Gehl's (2011) argument one step further, it is not only about borders as means of creating communication, but their openings, their 'holes' (Peperzak 1993, p. 66), that enable people to move from one side to the other, where boundaries are flexible, entwining the private and public together. ...
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In this article, I offer a phenomenological examination of the communicative nature of architectural features located between the private and public spheres of the city. These include balconies, porches, doors, windows, fire escapes, and entrances, which enable important communicative practices for inhabitants and passers-by. Focusing specifically on their liminality as an elemental condition for communication, I use the umbrella term Urban Liminal Architecture and explore their simultaneous, paradoxical operative modes of connectivity and separation, along with playfulness and freedom. This builds up to the critical examination of communication in relation to architectural liminality, with a specific focus on interactions between stranger inhabitants and passers-by and ethical practices. I argue that liminal architecture contributes to the values of 'the communicative city' and to the understanding of the essence of communication as transmitting and sharing, while it embodies the materiality of communication. I call to view the site of urban liminal architecture as a symbol and a condition of an ethical relationship with the Other.
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Cross-Сultural communication cannot exist without interaction, both oral and written. One of the types of written communication is epistolary text. This paper considers one kind of epistolary texts, the so-called ‘dead letter’, i.e. a letter which cannot be delivered to the recipient because this person does not exist. The author introduces the term ‘phantom letter’ since a corresponding term has not been found in the Russian language, besides the existing English term ‘dead letter’ does not fully reveal the phenomenon under discussion. The materials of the article are 14 personal letters and 24 literary texts in the English language belonging to the cultures of Ancient Egypt, the USA, Great Britain and Israel. The methodology of the research is based on the discourse analysis of the personal and fiction discourses. The following types of ‘phantom letters’ have been studied: letters to the dead, letters to the future generations and literary texts which are letters to some famous historical or fictional characters. Special attention is paid to various reasons why people have been writing such epistolary texts: the writer may do it on practical grounds, as a form of trauma counselling and/or resurrecting the loved one or information. As for the literary texts, the author’s aim is to create a humorous effect since all these letters are parodies. Chronotope is also considered, which is especially important in letters to the dead and letters to the future. Discourse formulas typical for some types of phantom letters have been analyzed. The last part of the paper deals with precedent texts, because understanding of fictional dead letters is drawn entirely from the knowledge of precedent. The conclusion states that there are various types of phantom letters in various cultures, they are normally personal and they are written for various reasons, however, they possess common features. Some prospects for further study in this area are also outlined.
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The phenomenon of personally addressing the dead through letters published in public media is a prevalent communicative practice that has earned little academic notice. This practice disrupts some common communication principles and provides us with new understandings of how communication works – by travelling, rather than reaching an end. To encapsulate and characterize this phenomenon, this article focuses on an Israeli case study of letters written to the dead and published in popular newspapers. I use a media ecology approach to phenomenologically classify five sets of characteristics in order to stimulate future discussion and analysis.
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In Supernatural Entertainments, Simone Natale vividly depicts spiritualism's rise as a religious and cultural phenomenon and explores its strong connection to the growth of the media entertainment industry in the nineteenth century. He frames the spiritualist movement as part of a new commodity culture that changed how public entertainments were produced and consumed. Starting with the story of the Fox sisters, considered the first spiritualist mediums in history, Natale follows the trajectory of spiritualism in Great Britain and the United States from its foundation in 1848 to the beginning of the twentieth century. He demonstrates that spiritualist mediums and leaders adopted many of the promotional strategies and spectacular techniques that were being developed for the broader entertainment industry. Spiritualist mediums were indistinguishable from other professional performers, as they had managers and agents, advertised in the press, and used spectacularism to draw audiences. Addressing the overlap between spiritualism's explosion and nineteenth-century show business, Natale provides an archaeology of how the supernatural became a powerful force in the media and popular culture of today.
“An outstanding intervention in contemporary debates about the emancipatory potential of the new media landscape. While “power to the people” may be the rallying cry in an age of blogging, Web 2.0 interactivity, and reality TV, Turner cautions against confusing the “demotic” with democracy…Ordinary People and the Media is required reading for students and scholars navigating the shifting terrain of media and cultural studies.” — Serra Tinic, University of Alberta, Canada The ‘demotic turn’ is a term coined by Graeme Turner to describe the increasing visibility of the ‘ordinary person’ in the media today. In this dynamic and insightful book he explores the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of the ‘everyday’ individual's willingness to turn themselves into media content through: Celebrity culture; Reality TV; DIY websites; Talk radio; User-generated materials online. Analyzing the pervasiveness of celebrity culture, this book further develops the idea of the demotic turn as a means of examining the common elements in a range of ‘hot spots’ within media and cultural studies today. Refuting the proposition that the demotic turn necessarily carries with it a democratizing politics, this book examines its political and cultural function in media production and consumption across many fields – including print and electronic news, current affairs journalism, and citizen and online journalism. It examines these fields in order to outline a structural shift in what the western media has been doing lately, and to suggest that these media activities represent something much more fundamental than contemporary media fashion.
In this original study, Milne moves between close readings of letters, postcards and emails, and investigations of the material, technological infrastructures of these forms, to answer the question: How does presence function as an aesthetic and rhetorical strategy within networked communication practices? As her work reveals, the relation between old and new communication systems is more complex than allowed in much contemporary media theory. Although the correspondents of letters, postcards and emails are not, usually, present to one another as they write and read their exchanges, this does not necessarily inhibit affective communication. Indeed, this study demonstrates how physical absence may, in some instances, provide correspondents with intense intimacy and a spiritual, almost telepathic, sense of the other's presence. While corresponding by letter, postcard or email, readers construe an imaginary, incorporeal body for their correspondents that, in turn, reworks their interlocutor's self-presentation. In this regard the fantasy of presence reveals a key paradox of cultural communication, namely that material signifiers can be used to produce the experience of incorporeal presence.
From an established author with a growing international profile in media studies, Media/Theory is an accessible yet challenging guide to ways of thinking about media and communications in modern life. Shaun Moores draws on ideas from a range of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, and expertly connects the analysis of media and communications with key themes in contemporary social theory. Examining core issues of time and space, Moores also examines matters of interactions, signification and identity, and argues that media studies is bound up in the wider processes of the modern world and not just about studying the media. This book makes a distinctive contribution towards rethinking the shape and direction of media studies today, and for students at advanced undergraduate or postgraduate level.