Season 1, Episode 1: Understanding Death in Early America

Is death an adversary or a friend? This week on Historia Mortis, Dr. Kimberly Sherman takes us on a jaunt through early American history as we explore the changing attitudes toward death from the seventeenth century to the antebellum era. 

Released October 13, 2020

Listen to Season 1, Episode 1 on

On this episode:

  • How the podcast came about.
  • Our own relationship to the subject of death in America.
  • How medieval Europeans viewed death as a “break” with life.
  • The impact of the Protestant Reformation on beliefs about death and the afterlife.
  • How Puritans shaped their deathways in early New England.
  • Puritan funeral practices and elegiac poetry.
  • The Enlightenment’s effects on eighteenth century deathways and the shift toward romanticism.
  • The Second Great Awakening and the emergence of a nineteenth-century “cult of the dead.”

Recommended Reading:

Caitlyn Doughty, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And other lessons from the crematory (New York: W. W. Norton, 2014)

Philippe Ariès, Western Attitudes toward DEATH: From the Middle Ages to the Present (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974).

James J. Farrell, Inventing the American Way of Death, 1830-1920 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1980).

David Hackett Fischer, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989).

David E. Stannard, The Puritan Way of Death: A Study in Religion, Culture, and Social Change (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977).

Erik R. Seeman, Speaking with the Dead in Early America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019).

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