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Chapter 6 - Conclusions

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 July 2014

Sarah Tarlow
Affiliation:
University of Leicester
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Summary

The dead body in the early modern period was conceptually situated at the intersection of numerous fields of discourse. It partook of the meanings of individualised personhood inhering in the unique body that took shape from the Renaissance onwards. At the same time, it was understood as a material object with mechanisms that could be analysed through careful study and fully recorded in words and images. In this way it was both unique and universal, although its universality was not the old medieval kind of universal in which all bodies were the same by virtue of being all images of God, but a new medical universal in which the social identity of the body was less significant in understanding its physical features, since one body could usually be substituted for another.

Sofaer (2006) has suggested that for the purposes of archaeological study the human body should be treated as material culture and subjected to the same analytical processes as other artefacts we recover. This book argues that this way of thinking about the human body is possible as a result of a particularly modern concept of corporeality that has developed over the past 500 years and is evident particularly in scientific discourses of the early modern period. However, it would not be correct to say that this disinterested, forensic understanding of the human body was the single or even dominant conception in this period. For emotional and social purposes there is strong evidence that the dead body retained the unique and personal identity of the deceased individual, with some of the attributes of a living body such as power and vigour, and that it even retained a degree of sentience and capacity for voluntary action.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2010

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  • Conclusions
  • Sarah Tarlow, University of Leicester
  • Book: Ritual, Belief and the Dead in Early Modern Britain and Ireland
  • Online publication: 05 July 2014
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511778629.007
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  • Conclusions
  • Sarah Tarlow, University of Leicester
  • Book: Ritual, Belief and the Dead in Early Modern Britain and Ireland
  • Online publication: 05 July 2014
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511778629.007
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Conclusions
  • Sarah Tarlow, University of Leicester
  • Book: Ritual, Belief and the Dead in Early Modern Britain and Ireland
  • Online publication: 05 July 2014
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511778629.007
Available formats
×