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Title: Review of Jupp, P. C. and G. Howarth, eds, 'The Changing Face of Death: Historical Accounts of Death and Disposal', Basingstoke and London, Macmillan, 1997, xiv, 202pp., £42.50.
Contributor(s): Ryan, John S (author)
Publication Date: 1997
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Abstract: The issue of this sober yet stimulating book is but one aspect of the appearance in the 1990s in both sociology and folklore of a new major topic, much as has been recently noted by the present writer in 'Australian Folklore', where there is also some discussion of the issue in 1996 of the new and similarly edited journal, 'Mortality', from Carfax Publishing Company, Abingdon. As the "Foreword" to the present volume puts it, "The extraordinary extension of life during the twentieth century and the mixture of illusion and reality that medicine can cure all ills, has misled the developed world into half believing in human immortality." (p. xiii). While this potential extended life is a spectacular gain for humankind, any intimate personal experience of the end of life is replaced by institutionalised process, in what may be deemed a "dark room of the contemporary, developed world". The present editors, who also compiled the collection, 'Contemporary Issues in the Sociology of Death, Dying and Disposal', have long been concerned with the popular revival of interest in social aspects of death and dying, and so of a range of approaches to death and dying, to "the good death", to euthanasia and organ donation. What emerges most clearly from the present collection is the omnipresence of death in earlier times; the emotional and symbolic poverty of the British/current western way of death; the strange silence on this matter from those not of "belief communities"; and a quiet yet definite change in the last decade or so. Some of the catalysing factors have probably included: assisted suicide; AIDS; the price of funerals, and a somewhat belated understanding that there is much of healing in the (wake-like) open processes of talking, listening and remembering at the end of another's life.
Publication Type: Review
Source of Publication: Lore and Language, 15(1-2), p. 202-204
Publisher: National Centre for English Cultural Tradition (NATCECT), University of Sheffield
Place of Publication: Sheffield, United Kingdom
ISSN: 0307-7144
Field of Research (FOR): 160101 Anthropology of Development
200203 Consumption and Everyday Life
220401 Christian Studies (incl Biblical Studies and Church History)
160104 Social and Cultural Anthropology
HERDC Category Description: D3 Review of Single Work
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