As the biblical phrase has it, death (‘the day of the Lord’) will come like a thief in the night. But for those who had the privilege of waiting for death, a constellation of thoughts, attitudes, and practical choices presented themselves which, when acted upon or recorded in some way, provides us with a view into the past: how people thought about death, and how they envisaged what lay beyond. Focusing on the fifth through eighth centuries, this talk explores how individuals in the past made personal decisions about the meaning of their lives whilst engaged in the process of making preparations for death. In an era of western Christian culture that was particularly challenged by shifts in attitudes to wealth, and thus by extension to the thorny interconnection of personal possessions and hopes of salvation, these individuals faced entirely relatable concerns about how to understand what they owned and, in some cases, what they had lost. In some cases, new approaches had to be learned in the context of religious ideas that were not necessarily intuitive. From the anxieties of an impoverished aristocrat in the fifth-century, to disturbing personal visions of the otherworld in the seventh and eighth centuries, possessions (and their loss) came to represent both baggage and opportunity in the quest to face death with a modicum of hope.
Isabel Moreira is Professor of History at the University of Utah, where she served as chair from 2011 to 2016. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Saint Andrews. Her scholarship focuses on the social, cultural, religious and intellectual history of Late Antiquity (roughly 300-800) with an emphasis on cultural expressions of religious ideas. Her most recent publications include Heaven's Purge: Purgatory in Late Antiquity with Oxford University Press and Hell and Its Afterlife: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, a co-edited volume with Margaret Toscano examining Hell's classical roots to the modern era of graphic novels and journalism in an era of terrorism.
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Series Funders and Co-Sponsors: UF Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere (Rothman Endowment), UF Smathers Libraries, UF Office of Research, School of Art + Art History's Harn Eminent Scholar Lecture Series, UF International Center, UF College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, UF Department of History, UF Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies, UF Center for Latin American Studies, UF Department of Religion, Alachua County Library District, UF College of Veterinary Medicine, UF Digital Worlds Institute, UF Honors Program.
For an overview of Death: Confronting the Great Divide, click here.
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