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Conclusion

  • David McAllister
Chapter

Abstract

Early Victorian literature and culture represented the dead in radically different ways to the culture of the late-eighteenth century: a change for which there are numerous contributory causes. As Thomas Laqueur points out, it is clear that what had once been a ‘a kind of baroque pleasure in imagining the dead as rotting corpses’ was transformed into ‘a horror of such an image’, but to ascribe this simply to a change in attitudes to death ‘hides the processes’ through which these attitude changes ‘come to have an effect’, and risks obscuring ‘other possible causes as well’. The declining authority of the established church in particular and religious belief in general, rapid urbanisation and population growth, the destabilising effects of advances in scientific knowledge, each of these elements contributed to the relatively sudden changes in how the living imagine the dead that took place in the period covered by this book. Yet, I have argued here that foremost among these causes—uniting and exploiting them in equal parts—stands a fundamental desire on the part of successive generations, from the Romantics to the Victorians, to transform social relations by reforming the ways in which the living imagined the dead.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • David McAllister
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of English and HumanitiesBirkbeck College - University of LondonLondonUK

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