The ghost in early modern Protestant culture: shifting perceptions of the afterlife, 1450-1700

McKeever, Amanda Jane (2011) The ghost in early modern Protestant culture: shifting perceptions of the afterlife, 1450-1700. Doctoral thesis (DPhil), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

My thesis seeks to address the continuity, change and the syncreticism of ideas
regarding post-mortem existence in the wake of the Reformation. Prior to reform, the
late Medieval world view of the afterlife was very straightforward. One either went to
Heaven via Purgatory, or straight to Hell. In the exempla literature of the period,
ghosts were seen to provide evidence of the purgatorial system. However, this
doctrine was dismantled by reformers who rejected Purgatory wholesale. Reformers
then put forth a multiplicity of eschatologies which included various strands of
mortalism, none of which allowed for the possibility that the dead could return to the
living. In theory therefore, the ghost should have disappeared from the mental
landscape, yet it not only survived, but it thrived in Protestant culture.

This raises three key questions which are absolutely central to this thesis. Firstly:
by what mechanisms did commitment to ghosts continue in lay and elite discourses in
early modern England, when religious authority denied the possibility of their
existence? Secondly: what opportunities were there to incorporate ghosts into
Anglican or wider Protestant belief? Finally: Why would many Protestant elites want
to elide the doctrinal problem of their existence and assert that ghosts existed? The
ghost must have served a purpose in a way that nothing else could. It is therefore the
purpose of the thesis to examine the shifting role of the ghost in early modern
Protestant England.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > History
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BD Speculative Philosophy > BD300 Ontology Including being, the soul, life, death
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion. Mythology. Rationalism
D History General and Old World > D History (General)
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 16 May 2011 14:53
Last Modified: 14 Aug 2015 12:54
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/6903

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