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Whose body? A study of attitudes towards the dead body in early modern Paris

By Vanessa Harding

Abstract

This chapter examines attitudes towards the dead body, as exemplified by\ud arrangements for funerals and burials, in Paris between around 1550 and\ud 1670. It seeks to establish, not so much what people said should happen\ud to the bodies of the dead, but what happened in practice - the care, or\ud lack of it, which the living accorded to the corpses of their \ud contemporaries and predecessors - and to use this to further our\ud understanding of the mentality of early modern urban dwellers. It is\ud part of a wider enquiry, to explore the attitudes of the living to the\ud dead in Paris and London, and to consider the ways in which this can\ud illuminate the nature of these two metropolitan societies, in the\ud sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Looking at the treatment of the\ud corpse can also take discussion of the body, and the ways in which it is\ud apprehended and understood, a stage further than the predominant focus\ud on the living; dead bodies were as variably constructed, as liable to\ud objectification (even commodification), as exposed to contest and\ud competition over meaning as living ones. This particular study\ud highlights the issues of control and ownership, among the complexity of\ud reactions to the materiality of bodies, and offers an insight into power\ud relations in a wider social and spatial environment

Topics: hca
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Year: 2000
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.bbk.ac.uk.oai2:265

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