Diana: a subject fit for Teutonic study

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The Independent Online
It Had to happen, and upon reflection, where else but Germany? Already the impact of Diana, Princess of Wales's death two months ago has been picked over by saloon-bar sages, junk psychologists and newspaper columnists in every nation on earth. Stamps have been issued in her honour, public parksnamed after her. Now Teutonic love of thoroughness has delivered the ultimate accolade: last week she became the subject of a lecture course in Berlin.

"Why were these myths about her created - Diana as the latter-day Mary, Diana as a saint of women, as a priestess of the cult of victims?" asks the brochure at the capital's Free University. The answer is being provided in a weekly series of 14 lectures. The title of the first,"Torn World and Hidden Meaning: On the Function of Mythical Figures for the Modern Age", gave a flavour of the joys ahead for Diana buffs.

Then follow such themes as "Love, Publicity and a State Funeral: Feelings as a Resource for Political Rule", and a comparison of the Adoration of Diana with the Cult of the Virgin Mary. She will be evaluated as feminist inspiration and potential destroyer of the British monarchy.

Professor Sabine Berghahn, political scientist and co-organiser of the course, is unapologetic. "The University is there to study what is happening in the real world," she says. "It is ideally suited to reflect upon a topical matter that has moved the public in such a huge way."

The course was heavily advertised around the political-science faculty, where the lectures are being held in a 164-seat hall. The public can also attend, free. The course will not be counted as part of the official curriculum, so no attendance credits apply for students.

Professor Berghahn admits that before last 31 August, her knowledge of Diana was gained exclusively from celebrity magazines in the hairdressing salon. "But after her death, we all felt this huge outpouring of grief. In the end we decided to put together a lecture series."

Heavy-duty Dianology has landed on British shores as well. Later this month the London-based Forum for Independent Psychotherapists is holding a "public dialogue" entitled "The Week That Shook the World", and whose featured speakers include the Jungian analyst Andrew Samuels.

Tickets are pounds 10 each, and reportedly going fast. What price a Chair of Princess of Wales studies at Oxford come this time next year?

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