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The Work of the Dead


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Table of Contents

Preface ix Acknowledgments xv Introduction: The Work of the Dead 1 Part I The Deep Time of the Dead 29 1 Do the Dead Matter? 35 2 The Dead Body and the Persistence of Being 55 3 The Cultural Work of the Dead 80 Part II Places of the Dead 107 4 The Churchyard and the Old Regime 112 The Development of the Churchyard 114 Language 117 Place 121 The Church and Churchyard in the Landscape 121 Necrogeography 123 Necrobotany 133 Necrotopology and Memory 137 The Life and Afterlife of the Churchyard in Literature 141 The Passage of the Dead to the Churchyard 145 Law 148 Exclusion from the Churchyard 148 The Claims of the Dead Body on the Parish Churchyard 151 The Claims of the Parish on the Dead Body 153 The Economics of Churchyard Burial 155 The Right to Burial and the Crisis of the Old Regime 161 Enlightenment Scandals 182 Voltaire 189 David Hume 203 5 The Cemetery and the New Regime 211 The Danger of the Dead and the Rise of the Cemetery 215 Genealogies of the New Regime 238 Imagination: Elysium, Arcadia, and the Dead of the Eighteenth Century 238 Cimetiere du Pere-Lachaise 260 Distant Lands and the Imperial Imagination 265 The Age of the Cemetery 271 Novelty 272 Necrogeography and Necrobotany 279 Cemeteries and Capitalism 288 Religious Pluralism in the Age of the Cemetery 294 Reform, Revolution, and the Cemetery 305 Class, Family, and the Cemetery 309 Putting the Dead in Their Place: Pauper Funerals and Proper Funerals, Burials and Reburials 312 Disrupted Bodies 336 Part III Names of the Dead 363 6 The Names of the Dead in Deep Time 367 Names of the Dead in Times of War 375 Names of the Dead in Times of Peace 382 7 The Rise of the Names of the Dead in Modern History 388 8 The Age of Necronominalism 413 Names over Bodies 415 Names and the Absent but Present Body 417 Monumental Names 421 Names of the Vanished Dead 431 9 The Names of the Great War 447 Part IV Burning the Dead 489 10 Disenchantment and Cremation 495 11 Ashes and History 523 Different Enchantments 524 Ashes in Their Place 542 Afterword: From a History of the Dead to a History of Dying 549 Notes 559 Image Credits 679 Index 681 Plates follow page 408

About the Author

Thomas W. Laqueur is the Helen Fawcett Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley. His books include Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud and Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation. He is a regular contributor to the London Review of Books.


Winner of the 2016 PROSE Award in European & World History, Association of American Publishers Winner of the 2016 Stansky Book Prize, North American Conference on British Studies Winner of the 2016 Cundill Prize in Historical Literature, McGill University Winner of the 2016 George L. Mosse Prize, American Historical Association 2016 Gold Medal Winner in World History, Independent Publisher Book Awards One of Flavorwire's 10 Best Books by Academic Publishers in 2015 One of The Guardian's Best Books of 2015, selected by Alison Light One of Flavorwire's 15 Best Nonfiction Books of 2015 "Laqueur's discussion of how the cemetery supplanted the church graveyard as the chief place of interment is a masterpiece of historical investigation. Showing how a complex mix of factors--including concern with public health, the waning power of the Catholic Church, and the emergence of a belief that the place where one is buried should be a matter of personal choice--produced the shift, he describes how sites were created in which the dead were separated from the living as they had not been when they were interred in or near places of worship. With the rise of cemeteries, the dead could be remembered as individuals and buried with their families in a way that was impractical in overcrowded churchyards. Hardly a sentence in Laqueur's long book is wasted."--John Gray, New York Review of Books "[A] sprawling meditation on mortal remains... Laqueur offers an intricate historical narrative about the place the dead occupy in our lives... The Work of the Dead is a methodologically bracing book."--Thomas Meaney, London Review of Books "Laqueur effectively shows that remains of the dead matter long after they decompose ... [and his] engaging writing style enlivens this somber subject."--Library Journal "The product of prodigious research and a subtle and sophisticated knowledge of history, anthropology, and philosophy, The Work of the Dead is as magnificent--and mindboggling--as it is monumental."--Glenn C. Altschuler, Huffington Post "A remarkably supple and fascinating study, providing as it were the sociological and forensic underpinning of every ghost story ever told... The Work of the Dead [is] both provocative and, you should pardon the term, lively (and readers should be sure not to miss the wonderfully argumentative end notes). It'll change the way you look at being dead and buried."--Steve Donoghue, Open Letters Monthly "Laqueur's book is a monumental undertaking, teeming with so many absorbing anecdotes and so much vivid information that it can be read either compulsively or for an hour a day, just to keep in sight of the nub of our fears and the often romantic absurdity of our hopes and superstitions. It had this reader at least imagining many cross-generational dialogues on the subject."--Gregory Day, Sydney Morning Herald "This massive, mesmerizing work contains much that's worth pondering."--Publishers Weekly, (starred review) "Laqueur's mastery of this history, and his limpid prose, make this a deeply engaging text. He renders his sentences with gorgeous profundity."--Deborah Lutz, Times Higher Education "The Work of the Dead is an enormous, erudite, sprawling, garrulous, exhausting and brilliant piece of work. And it never forgets that thread of 'intuition and feeling'."--Economist "A major work of scholarship on an undiscovered country, the land of the dead, which, as it turns out, has had major implications for the living. Laqueur's book, which begins with Diogenes' claim that his dead body should be thrown over the gates for the dogs, aims to show that our care for the dead ('materially and imaginatively') marks 'the sign of our emergence from the order of nature into culture'."--Jonathan Sturgeon, Flavorwire (One of Flavorwire's Ten Best Books by Academic of 2015) "[The Work of the Dead] is, quite simply, an extraordinary book... [I]n short, this is the work of a great historian doing what we all do, only better: reckoning with death as we bide time until our own."--Darrin M. McMahon, Literary Review "Laqueur's detailed stories enable us to see 'the work of the dead' in action as it were, sustaining the old and forging the new... Dazzling in its scope, expertly researched and crafted, The Work of the Dead shows us what is important about our humanity and longings. It is also a page-turner and a terrific read."--Sharon R. Kaufman, Los Angeles Review of Books "After being asked what he would like to have done with his body after he died, the Greek philosopher Diogenes replied that he wanted it thrown out for animals to devour. Thousands of years later, his answer can still shock. Thomas Laqueur explains why in his sweeping history of the way humans have grappled with death--an abstract terror made concrete by the bodies that remain when the dead have passed on. Combining anthropological reflections on the cultural functions of the dead with historical investigations of the shifting ways their bodies have been treated, Laqueur uses the stubborn resistance to Diogenes' provocation to explore the world the dead left behind."--Tim Shenk, Dissent "Poetically, powerfully sweeping across human history, Laqueur explores what the rituals of caring for the departed reveal about the living. Their story is ours; their absence shapes art and architecture, communities and civilizations. In every era and every culture, Laqueur finds the dead body imbued with meaning."--Swarthmore Bulletin "Laqueur's venerable research all leads to one principal concluding thought, which is that while we can know logically that the human corpse is unrelated to the personality it once held, it is the most intimately connected material thing that is left of a life."--Juniper Quin, SevenPonds "This thought-provoking tome, erudite and finely-written, seemingly encapsulates all past uttering on the dead in our fleetingly short lives."--Julie Peakman, History Today "[An] invariably fascinating treatment of a morbid subject."--Choice "What Laqueur has done, is one meticulously argumented stroll through time and beliefs, highly attractive in its depth and far-reachingness."--Amir Muzur, European Journal of Bioethics

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