Mapping Mortality: The Persistence of Memory and Melancholy in Early Modern England

Synopsis

This book is a cultural study of the ways men and women in early modern England confronted, accommodated, and paid tribute to mortal life and certain death. Drawing on prose and poetry, painting and statuary, social practices and religious rites, William Engel reopens central questions about Renaissance habits of thought. He explores how the metaphorics of that period signaled and enacted a continual revelation of mortality: the death of the body (figured as a kind of vehicle) and the eternality of the soul (that which was to be transported). Engel argues that early modern metaphorics was essentially mnemonic and emblematic, grounding itself in the relation of body and soul. Building on the work of Benjamin, Heidegger, Derrida, Baudrillard, and Eliade, the book provides contemporary readers with a key for recovering and understanding the critical assumptions underlying a mnemonically oriented principle of aesthetics.