Death and the Afterlife

Tina Pippin

in The Oxford Handbook of English Literature and Theology

Published in print March 2009 | ISBN: 9780199544486
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

 Death and the Afterlife

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  • Philosophy of Religion
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In English literature and theology, the varieties of fictions about the End follow certain patterns and scattered genealogies, yet the connections to political and social realities of the times are always worthy of connection and comment. Death lyrics in poetic or prose form have a long history. These lyrics were popular in the Middle Ages in England, especially in the fifteenth century. Everyone will eventually die, and death treats all social classes equally. Literature responds, in poetry, sermons, novels and plays, to humour death. All these writers mentioned in this article faced these limitations of understanding death and the afterlife. These writers wrote in the context of plague; of their own and others' sickness; of existential dilemmas, sudden death, or funerals. They spoke out of despair, joy, memory, politics, and hope. In the face of death they dreamed of afterlives and saw visions of their own world transformed.

Keywords: death lyrics; eternity; purgatory; afterlife; English literature; theology

Article.  8368 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Philosophy of Religion ; Christianity ; Religious Studies

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