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Chapter 3 - A Morbid Efflorescence: Envisaging the Afterlife in the Carolingian Period

from Part I - Chronological Surveys

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 December 2020

Richard Matthew Pollard
Affiliation:
Université du Québec à Montréal
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Summary

The Carolingian period (750–900) was a time of exceptional cultural and intellectual vitality that saw the production of many new works, and included amongst these were many new visions or voyages to the afterlife. Following the earlier example of Wilhelm Levison, scholars like Paul Dutton and Claude Carozzi have hitherto considered these texts mainly in light of their supposed political aims, often to critique the policies and behaviour of prominent political and ecclesiastical figures. While this perspective is not invalid, it tends to obscure other interesting elements found in afterlife accounts from this era. This chapter explores two: first of all, the use of vision texts to stake out positions on important doctrinal questions, particularly arguing for and against the efficacy of intercessory prayer, and even offering collective solutions in the case of the latter; second, Carolingian afterlife visions are innovative for their inclusion of women in prominent roles for the first time. The truth of the Carolingian world – that it was more feminine and more fractious than we might think – was darkly reflected in its otherworld.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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