WESTERN ATTITUDES TOWARD DEATH: From the Middle Ages to the Present by Philippe Aries

WESTERN ATTITUDES TOWARD DEATH: From the Middle Ages to the Present

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Very delicately, very tactfully, Aries maps our changing mores of Death and dying from the High Middle Ages when in the world of Arthur and the Round Table it was ""a very simple thing,"" a ritual organized by the dying person himself, to the present when it is under interdiction, ""forbidden and shameful."" Aries (The Centuries of Childhood), is admittedly on the most tremulous ground, being, as he describes himself, ""a historian of mentalities."" He must look to old village graveyards and pictorial and literary Victorian death scenes, to iconography and vestments of mourning, to that moment in time when death which had been ""the collective destiny of the species"" became individualized. . . and Romanticized. Aries stresses the slowness of these changes and how, for centuries sometimes, older attitudes survived alongside the new. He argues that the monstrous mummies and cadavers of the 15th century art were a sign of an emergent, extravagant love of life and worldly goods among the proto-capitalist classes of Northern Europe, and not, as Huizinga claimed, a symptom of the moral crisis of the late Medieval order. For a specialized audience, to be sure, but important social history.

Pub Date: June 26th, 1974
ISBN: 0801817625
Publisher: Johns HopKins Univ. Press