Detail of Lovers, Death and the Devil, an etching by Daniel Hopfer, ca. 1520
History 97C, Seminar 4: Death, Grieving, and the Afterlife in History (Fall 2007)
Mondays, 1:00 – 3:50 PM, Bunche 2150
Instructor: K. Pangburn (email@example.com)
Office Hours: M 12-1 p.m. and Th 2-3 p.m., Bunche 5240 or by appointment
This seminar offers an introduction to the history of death, grieving and the afterlife in
the West from the Middle Ages to the present. The framework is provided by the
theories of the historian Philippe Ariès (1914-1984), who proposed five historical stages
in the transformation of western attitudes toward death. We will examine Ariès’s
theories by reading his book The Hour of Our Death, supplemented by a variety of
secondary and primary sources. Special attention will be paid to exploring the causes of
the attitude shifts that Ariès identifies, an exploration that will lead us to consider the
impact of the Black Plague, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and World War I.
All required readings are available as a course packet, to be purchased at the UCLA
Bookstore at Akerman Union. Readings for the class presentation and book review (the
latter denoted by **) are available on reserve at Powell Library.
Two 2-page book reviews: 10%
5-page response paper: 20%
Class presentation: 30%
10-page research paper: 30%
WEEK ONE: October 1 – The Tame Death (500 – 1150)
Ariès, The Hour of Our Death, pp. 5-92.
WEEK TWO: October 8 – The Death of the Self (1150-1550)
Ariès, The Hour of Our Death, pp. 95-201.
1. Purgatory and Last Judgment
**Jacques Le Goff, The Birth of Purgatory, trans. by Arthur Goldhammer (London:
Scolar Press, 1984), pp. 1-51, 130-2, 209-234, 289-95, 334-360.
2. Ars Moriendi – The Art of Dying
**Frances M.M. Comper, ed. The Book of the Craft of Dying and Other Early English
Tracts Concerning Death (Arno Press, 1977), pp. 3-47, 55-88.
WEEK THREE: October 15 – The Death of the Self, CONT’D
Ariès, The Hour of Our Death, pp. 202-293.
Paul Binski, “The Macabre”
3. The Black Plague
**John Kelly, The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death (London:
Fourth Estate, 2005); John Aberth, ed. The Black Death: A Brief History with
Documents (Bedford St. Martin’s, 2005), pp. 23-45, 75-82.
4. Dance of Death
**James M. Clark, The Dance of Death in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance
(Glasgow University, 1950); The Dance of Death Printed at Paris in 1490
(Library of Congress, 1945); Holbein’s Dance of Death and Bible Woodcuts (The
Sylvan Press, 1947), pp. 1-53.
5. Late Medieval Tombs
Paul Binski, Medieval Death: Ritual and Representation (British Museum Press, 1996),
pp. 70-122; **Kathleen Cohen, Metamorphosis of a Death Symbol: The Transi
Tomb in the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance (University of California
Press, 1973), pp. 1-83.
WEEK FOUR: October 22 – Remote and Imminent Death (1550-1750)
Ariès, The Hour of Our Death, pp. 297-352.
6. The Reformers’ Rejection of Purgatory
Colleen McDannell and Bernhard Lang, Heaven: A History (Yale University Press,
1988), pp. 145-180; Peter Marshall, Beliefs and the Dead in Reformation
England (Oxford University Press, 2002), pp. 188-231.
7. Funeral Rites in Reformation Germany
**Craig M. Koslofsky, The Reformation of the Dead (St. Martin’s Press, 2000), pp. 1-4,
8. Burial and the Ars Moriendi in the 16th
Joachim Whaley, “Symbolism for the Survivors: The Disposal of the Dead in Hamburg
in the Late Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries” in Mirrors of Mortality, ed.
Whaley (St. Martin’s Press, 1981), pp. 80-105; Austra Reinis, Reforming the
Art of Dying: The Ars Moriendi in the German Reformation, 1519-1528 (Ashgate,
2007), pp. 1-15, 243-258.
WEEK FIVE: October 29 – Remote and Imminent Death, CONT’D
Ariès, The Hour of Our Death, pp. 353-406.
Porter, “Death and the Doctors in Georgian England”
Response Paper Due (Option #1)
9. Changing Attitudes Toward Death in the French Enlightenment
**John McManners, Death and the Enlightenment (Oxford University Press, 1981), pp.
5-94; 234-367; 438-465.
10. Enlightenment Debate over the Death Penalty
**Richard J. Evans, Rituals of Retribution: Capital Punishment in Germany, 1600-1987
(Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 27-140; John McManners, Death and the
Enlightenment (Oxford University Press, 1981), pp. 368-408.
11. Fear of Premature Burial in the 18th
**Jan Bondeson, Buried Alive: The Terrifying History of Our Most Primal Fear (W.W.
Norton & Company, 2001), pp. 9-34, 51-154; Sean Quinlan, “Apparent Death
in Eighteenth-Century France and England” in French History 9(1) 1995, pp. 27-
WEEK SIX: November 5 – The Death of the Other (1750-1918)
Ariès, The Hour of Our Death, pp. 409-450.
Jalland, “Victorian Death and Its Decline”
12. Victorian “Emotional Intensity”
Peter N. Stearns, American Cool: Constructing a Twentieth-Century Emotional Style
(New York University Press, 1994), pp. 16-94.
-Century Mourning Dress and Memorabilia
Lou Tayler, Mourning Dress: A Costume and Social History (George Allen and Unwin,
1983), pp. 120-163, 224-247; Martha Pike, “In Memory Of: Artifacts Relating
to Mourning in Nineteenth Century America” in Rituals and Ceremonies in
Popular Culture, ed. Ray B. Browne (Bowling Green University Press, 1980), pp.
14. The Garden Cemetery
**James Stevens Curl, The Victorian Celebration of Death (Sutton Publishing, 2000),
pp. 1-108; Frederick Brown, Père Lachaise: Elysium as Real Estate (Viking,
1973); Frederick Barker and John Gay, Highgate Cemetery: Victorian Valhalla
(John Murray, 1984).
WEEK SEVEN: November 12 – The Death of the Other, CONT’D
Ariès, The Hour of Our Death, pp. 450-474.
Phelps, The Gates Ajar (1868)
-Century Visions of Life after Death
**Colleen McDannell and Bernhard Lang, Heaven: A History (Yale University Press,
1988), pp. 181-275.
16. The Rise of Spiritualism and the Occult
**Janet Oppenheim, Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England, 1850-1914
(Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 7-62; **Bret E. Carroll, Spiritualism in
Antebellum America (Indiana University Press, 1997), pp. 1-34, 120-151.
17. Photographing the Dead
**Jay Ruby, Secure the Shadow: Death and Photography in America (The MIT Press,
1995), pp. 27-189; CMP Bulletin: Memento Mori: Death in Nineteenth
Century Photography (California Museum of Photography, 1990), pp. 4-11.
WEEK EIGHT: November 19 – Death Denied (1918-present)
Ariès, The Hour of Our Death, pp. 559-601.
Jupp and Walter, “The Healthy Society: 1918-98”
Gorer, “The Pornography of Death”
18. Denial of Death in Modern-Day Britain
**Geoffrey Gorer, Death, Grief, and Mourning in Contemporary Britain (The Cresset
Press, 1965), pp. 1-83, 110-116.
19. WWI’s Impact on Attitudes Toward Death and Grieving
**David Cannadine, “War and Death, Grief and Mourning in Modern Britain” in Mirrors
of Mortality, ed. Whaley (St. Martin’s Press, 1981), pp. 187-242.
20. The Construction of a 20th
-Century “Emotional Style”
**Peter N. Stearns, American Cool: Constructing a Twentieth-Century Emotional Style
(New York University Press, 1994), pp. 1-15, 95-228.
WEEK NINE: November 26 - Death Denied, CONT’D
Screening of the film Wit (2001), to be followed by class discussion.
Response Paper Due (Option #2)
21. Rise of the “Funeral Industry”
**Jessica Mitford, The American Way of Death Revisited (Vintage, 2000), pp. ix-149.
22. Life after Death Today
Tony Walter, The Eclipse of Eternity (St. Martin’s Press, 1996), pp. 27-136; 173-189.
WEEK TEN: December 3 – Summary and Critique
Ariès, The Hour of Our Death, pp. 602-614.
Whaley, Introduction to Mirrors of Mortality
Stone, “Death and Its History”