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Chapter 2 - Visions of the Afterlife in the Early Medieval West

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

From the sixth century onwards, numerous visions of the afterlife and the otherworld were recorded by authors who operated in the post-Roman barbarian West. The most prevailing characteristics of all these accounts are their brevity and conciseness. More often than not, these stories were integrated into a larger historical or hagiographic narrative, in an attempt to stress various political, religious, or cultural points. It was only towards the end of the Merovingian period, with the composition of the so-called Visio Baronti, that more comprehensive accounts of the afterlife began to appear in the West, and thus paved the way for the emergence of a new literary genre. This chapter discusses the evolution of these narratives, as well as the various possible reasons why travels to the otherworld became a seminal component in the historiographical and hagiographical tradition of the early medieval West.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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