The Quick and the Dead: A Social History of Ideas about the Border between Life and Death in Medieval Europe (1000-1400)


ACLS Fellowship Program




This is a study of medieval beliefs about the border between the living and the dead, and how such attitudes diverged and overlapped in different contexts and social strata. The work juxtaposes the translocal epistemologies of the intelligentsia (theology, medicine) with those of vernacular cultures in local contexts, in order to cast light upon the multiplicity of medieval conceptualizations of the human. As imaginary persons, the dead form an excellent point of entry into ideas about how personal identity is positioned in bodies, spirits, social networks, and both microcosmic and macrocosmic geographies. Yet this imaginative aspect was built upon real personalities and real bodies, making the history of the dead both idealist and materialist in scope.