Diana 101

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BERLIN: The condolence books were packed. The piles of flowers could be seen from passing airplanes. Her tribute single is the biggest seller of all-time, and there has been more ink spilled over her memory than any other subject since World War II. Now Princess Diana has even penetrated the hallowed halls of academia, as one German college struggles to answer the question: What on earth happened to us after she died?

It seems strange that Diana, who barely made it through the British equivalent of high school, should be given the semester-long-lecture-series treatment two months after her death. But that's exactly what happens Thursday when "Myth and Politics: Diana, from the Princess of Wales to the Queen of Hearts" kicks off at Berlin's Free University.

"It's not just about studying Princess Diana backwards and forwards," says organizer Professor Sigrid Koch-Baumgarten. "New myths are being built, and we're interested in their construction."

Indeed they are. Rather than an excuse for extra credits (students won't get any), the course finally puts the academic seal on Diana's transformation into 20th century icon someone in the vein of Marilyn Monroe or Eva Peron. Maybe it goes even further. One lecture draws a terrifying comparison: It's called "The Cult of Mary and the Adoration of Lady Di."