Mortal Remains: Death in Early America

Mortal Remains: Death in Early America


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Mortal Remains introduces new methods of analyzing death and its crucial meanings over a 240-year period, from 1620 to 1860, untangling its influence on other forms of cultural expression, from religion and politics to race relations and the nature of war. In this volume historians and literary scholars join forces to explore how, in a medically primitive and politically evolving environment, mortality became an issue that was inseparable from national self-definition.

Attempting to make sense of their suffering and loss while imagining a future of cultural permanence and spiritual value, early Americans crafted metaphors of death in particular ways that have shaped the national mythology. As the authors show, the American fascination with murder, dismembered bodies, and scenes of death, the allure of angel sightings, the rural cemetery movement, and the enshrinement of George Washington as a saintly father, constituted a distinct sensibility. Moreover, by exploring the idea of the vanishing Indian and the brutality of slavery, the authors demonstrate how a culture of violence and death had an early effect on the American collective consciousness.

Mortal Remains draws on a range of primary sources—from personal diaries and public addresses, satire and accounts of sensational crime—and makes a needed contribution to neglected aspects of cultural history. It illustrates the profound ways in which experiences with death and the imagery associated with it became enmeshed in American society, politics, and culture.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812218237
Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
Publication date: 10/28/2002
Pages: 264
Sales rank: 1,267,820
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.78(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Nancy Isenberg and Andrew Burstein are coholders of the Mary Frances Barnard Chair in Nineteenth-Century American History at the University of Tulsa. Isenberg is the author of Sex and Citizenship in Antebellum America, winner of the 1999 SHEAR book prize. Burstein is the author of several books, including America's Jubilee.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

1. The Christian Origins of the Vanishing Indian
—Laura M. Stevens
2. Blood Will Out: Sensationalism, Horror, and the Roots of American Crime Literature
—Daniel A. Cohen
3. A Tale of Two Cities: Epidemics and the Rituals of Death in Eighteenth-Century Boston nd Philadelphia
—Robert V. Wells

4. Death and Satire: Dismembering the Body Politic
—Nancy Isenberg
5. Immortalizing the Founding Fathers: The Excesses of Public Eulogy
—Andrew Burstein
6. The Politics of Tears: Death in the Early American Novel
—Julia Stern

7. Major André's Exhumation
—Michael Meranze
8. Patriotic Remains: Bones of Contention in the Early Republic
—Matthew Dennis
9. A Peculiar Mark of Infamy: Dismemberment, Burial, and Rebelliousness in Slave Societies
—Douglas R. Egerton

10. Elizabeth Reis, Immortal Messengers: Angels, Gender, and Power in Early America
—Douglas R. Egerton
11. "In the Midst of Life we are in Death": Affliction and Religion in Antebellum New York
—Nicholas Marshall
12. The Romantic Landscape: Washington Irving, Sleepy Hollow, and the Rural Cemetery Movement
—Thomas G. Connors

List of Contributors

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