Student_Wk_02_ Hist_ AmDeath

Student_Wk_02_ Hist_ AmDeath - ASB 353: Week Two Brief...

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ASB 353: Week Two Brief History of American Deathways Notice that the historical overview given by Moller (1 st week rdg) and Metcalf and Huntington (1991) focus on Euro-Americans -- the practices of the descendents of Europeans who came to what is now called the United States. Puritans: 17 th century: Calvinist approach to death -death as a vehicle for obtaining salvation/release of soul from earth -coupled with fear of eternal damnation -Calvin: God predestines soul to salvation or damnation, cannot be changed by human intervention, and humans will not know fate until death (see Epistle to the Romans, chapters 8, 9) -add: can get idea from what happens in life (favor or disfavor . . .) -Puritans had tightly woven sense of community, can see it at death -people gather at deathbed to pray, sing, read Bible, help person accept will of God -Funeral and grieving practices -body is empty shell, so no elaborate ritual -wash body, wrap in plain white linen (cue from Jesus burial), plain coffin -family near body in house, remain awake (precursor of modern ‘wake’) -body buried after a few days -return home: refreshments, prayer: to help comfort survivors -no extended mourning, as this shows inability to accept God’s will -DR ADDS: see also as a break from Euro practices By 18 th century: elaboration of rites -funeral sermons at burial -verses on coffins and on sides of funeral carriages or hearses -mourning accoutrements: rings, gloves, scarves – with death’s heads, skeletons, coffins -shows the contradiction between theology and social reality DR ADDS: this is also a corollary to the changes in attitude toward the place in which they lived -16-17 th centuries: difficult new home in America; have few goods -gain more as time passes -American wilderness, scary; then east coast becomes more tamed… 19 th century: Beautification of death coupled with rise of individualism -nuclear family more prominent and isolated from community and kin networks -self-indulgence, sentimentalism, ostentation in dress and manner -beautify and romanticize death -cemeteries, tombstones, elaborate deathbed rituals -death of children: especially grieved DR ADDS: photographs of dead; mourning quilts -Role of undertaker grows -had been a part-time specialist who helped lay out corpse -cemetery moved away from church, to outskirts of town – provides hired rigs to carry body -early 19 th century: embalming more common -especially after Civil War – bring bodies home -Lincoln’s funeral cortege – with his embalmed body on display -people want to treat their loved ones similarly -1880s: arterial injection of embalming fluid; cosmetic restoration -DR ADDS: think of collections of butterflies, preservation of dead…. -role of undertaker as gatekeeper of death rituals strengthened
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Student_Wk_02_ Hist_ AmDeath - ASB 353: Week Two Brief...

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