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AfterlivesThe Return of the Dead in the Middle Ages$
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Nancy Mandeville Caciola

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781501702617

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501702617.001.0001

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Introduction

Introduction

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction
Source:
Afterlives
Author(s):

Nancy Mandeville Caciola

Publisher:
Cornell University Press
DOI:10.7591/cornell/9781501702617.003.0001

This introductory chapter situates death and the afterlife as a springboard for an inquiry into how cultural attitudes shifted, diverged, and overlapped through varying contexts and social strata. It puts together universalizing discourses such as theology and medicine in order to cast light upon the multiplicity of cultural traditions in the Middle Ages and their conceptualizations of the human. During the Middle Ages, the most systematic articulation of a thanatology (“the science of death”) was that of formal Christian theology. In doctrinal terms, the body awaited resurrection even as it decayed. The chapter discusses the fact that medieval ways of imagining postmortem existence preserve an afterlife of paganism, long after the pagan religions of Europe was supplanted by Christianity.

Keywords:   death, afterlife, cultural attitudes, theology, medicine, Middle Ages, thanatology, Christianity, paganism, Europe

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