Skip to main content

IMC 2019: Sessions

Session 811: Ghosts, Dangerous Bodies, and the Walking Dead in the Medieval World

Tuesday 2 July 2019, 16.30-18.00

Organisers:Stephen Gordon, School of Arts, Languages & Cultures, University of Manchester
Polina Ignatova, Department of History, Lancaster University
Moderator/Chair:Rose A. Sawyer, School of History / School of English, University of Leeds
Paper 811-a'And they placed the severed heads in their graves between their legs': Evidence of Walking Dead Superstitions in Excavation Reports
(Language: English)
Polina Ignatova, Department of History, Lancaster University
Index terms: Anthropology, Archaeology - General, Mentalities, Religious Life
Paper 811-bThe Resurrected Dead in Middle English Literature
(Language: English)
Rosanne Gasse, Department of English, Brandon University, Manitoba
Index terms: Hagiography, Language and Literature - Middle English, Religious Life
Paper 811-cWhat Is Dead May Never Die: William Baldwin's Medievalism and the Restless Dead
(Language: English)
Ben Parsons, School of English, University of Leicester
Index terms: Language and Literature - Comparative, Medievalism and Antiquarianism, Mentalities
Paper 811-d'Sometyme we aryse with dede bodyes in ful sondry wyse': Demons and the Walking Corpse in Chaucer's 'Friar's Tale'
(Language: English)
Stephen Gordon, School of Arts, Languages & Cultures, University of Manchester
Index terms: Folk Studies, Language and Literature - Middle English, Lay Piety, Sermons and Preaching

This session aims to explore medieval views upon death, decay, and resurrection by looking into the role of a revenant- a dead person returning back to life - in a written narrative. Polina Ignatova's paper will discuss to what extent excavation reports can aid our understanding of the written sources about restless corpses. Thus, the latter usually conclude with the living mutilating an allegedly dangerous body. Can the evidence of mutilation found in medieval burials prove the existence of the fear of revenants? Rosanne Gasse will address the status of a reanimated corpse (is it alive, dead, or caught in between?) by discussing how Lazarus was represented in Middle English texts, as well as other resurrected dead appearing in The Vision of Tundale, The Gilte Legende, Amis and Amiloun, and The Alphabet of Tales. Ben Parsons will discuss the role of a medieval revenant in William Baldwin's Beware the Cat and demonstrate how medieval ideas of spirits pervade the text, which positions itself as self-consciously 'modern' in contrast against a medieval past. Finally, Stephen Gordon's paper will explore how the cultural conception of the ‘revenant’ was articulated in Chaucer’s Friar's Tale, and demonstrate how the reference to the devil's taking of 'dede bodyes' adds an extra ironic nuance to the mercantile themes that permeate the Canterbury Tales.