Death's summer coat What the history of death and dying can tell us about life and living
Book - 2016
A doctor combines her profession along with her love of literature and history in a scholarly work that examines how humans have dealt with death and mortality throughout time and through changing cultures.
New York :
- First Pegasus Books hardcover edition
- Physical Description
- 266 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
- Includes bibliographical references (page 239-258) and index.
- Main Author
Schillace (Case Western Reserve Univ.) offers a sociopolitical exploration on how society has viewed the phenomenon of death and mourning across the ages, with a special emphasis on medicine and how "in the past 150 years, our approach to death in the West has changed markedly." Present civilization has sanitized the notion of death, and thereby become more removed from death and the natural process of dying than in the past. This book joins an emerging trend of works providing scholarly commentaries regarding current cultural perceptions of death. These include James Green's Beyond the Good Death: The Anthropology of Modern Dying (CH, Sep'08, 46-0381), Ann Neuman's The Good Death: An Exploration of Dying in America (CH, Aug'16, 53-5206), and Eve Joseph's In the Slender Margin: The Intimate Strangeness of Death and Dying (2016). Schillace engages readers by illustrating her points with interesting black-and-white images, snatches of poetry, and pertinent quotations peppered throughout. This interesting text is a worthy addition to academic libraries serving programs in history, funerary services, or health programs with a specialty in palliative care. However, libraries with similar works may opt to forgo this edition. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates and general readers. Copyright 2016 American Library Association.Review by Library Journal Reviews
Schillace (managing editor of Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry) raises the issue of the avoidance of mortality in Western culture. Through a historical-anthropological framework, she considers grief rituals in non-Western cultures and presents a selective history of Western approaches to death. Throughout this work, the focus is on death as event and process and on the act of grieving as a rite of passage. Moreover, the author's approach to Western history is haphazard, jumping from the Black Death to the Protestant Reformation to the Victorians. After the 19th century, religious rituals for death and dying are hardly mentioned. Instead, the book's concentration shifts to the role of doctors as priests in the "sanitized" dying process of today. Schillace concludes by exploring options for "rehumanizing" death through the creation of new customs. She considers briefly the emerging role of hospices and natural funerary practices; however, this section is sparse, with few suggestions. VERDICT Schillace raises a lot of questions surrounding the issue of mortality, leaving readers to form their own answers. Those interested in the topic should consider other works, such as Ann Neumann's The Good Death, for more representations on related Western perspectives.—Daniel Wigner, South Plains Coll., Lubbock, TX [Page 122]. (c) Copyright 2016 Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews
Schillace, managing editor of the journal Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry, goes beyond the typical treatise on mortality with this wide-ranging and captivating history of what it means to be alive. Beginning as early as her research permits (around 1800 B.C.E., with the first known medical text on pregnancy), she goes up to the present, showing how the rituals and procedures surrounding death derive from the theories humans use to come to terms with it. As Schillace herself notes, the book favors Western sources, with occasional dips into other cultures. Nonetheless, her explorations are extensive and interdisciplinary, drawing on research in the sciences but also valuing the many expressions of death in the arts. Accordingly, each chapter is illustrated with images, such as religious artwork and—most hauntingly—Victorian-era memento mori photography. Schillace, simply through her personable voice and personal stories, is able to breathe compassion into what might otherwise be a depressing topic. Though the main theme of grief and loss in death is familiar, readers will come away with ample new—and endlessly fascinating—information. This vibrant window to other lives also creates a deeper understanding of one's own. (Jan.) [Page ]. Copyright 2015 PWxyz LLC
A doctor combines her profession along with her love of literature and history in a scholarly work that examines how humans have dealt with death and mortality throughout time and through changing cultures.Review by Publisher Summary 2
We are living in a unique point in human history. People are living longer than ever, yet the longer we live, the more taboo and alien our mortality becomes. Yet we, and our loved ones, still remain mortal. People today still struggle with this fact, as we have done throughout our entire history. What led us to this point'what drove us to sanitize death and make it foreign and unfamiliar? In Death's Summer Coat Brandy Schillace explores our past to examine what it might mean for our future. From Victorian Britain to contemporary Cambodia, forgotten customs and modern-day rituals, we learn about the incredibly diverse'and sometimes just incredible'ways in which humans have dealt with mortality in different times and places. Today, as we begin to talk about mortality, there are difficult questions to face. What does it mean to have a "good death?" What purpose should a funeral serve? As Schillace shows, talking about death, and the rituals associated with it, can help provide answers. It also brings us closer together'conversation and community are just as important for living as for dying. Some of the stories are strikingly unfamiliar; others are far more familiar than you might suppose. But all reveal much about the present'and about ourselves.Review by Publisher Summary 3
Death is something we all confront—it touches our families, our homes, our hearts. And yet we have grown used to denying its existence, treating it as an enemy to be beaten back with medical advances.We are living at a unique point in human history. People are living longer than ever, yet the longer we live, the more taboo and alien our mortality becomes. Yet we, and our loved ones, still remain mortal. People today still struggle with this fact, as we have done throughout our entire history. What led us to this point? What drove us to sanitize death and make it foreign and unfamiliar?Schillace shows how talking about death, and the rituals associated with it, can help provide answers. It also brings us closer together—conversation and community are just as important for living as for dying. Some of the stories are strikingly unfamiliar; others are far more familiar than you might suppose. But all reveal much about the present—and about ourselves.