Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College


Religion 198. Experimental Courses

Dead Bodies and Living Memories: Immortality in the Ancient World

According to Egyptologist Jan Assmann, “All culture is a struggle against oblivion.” How, then, might different cultures respond to the potential oblivion caused by death–the loss of personhood, the deterioration of the body, and the fading memories of those who have died? What rituals and ideologies preserve memories of the dead among the living? Is this commemoration a kind of immortality? In this course, we will explore such questions and critically examine the nature of memory as it relates to ancient conceptions of death and afterlife. Through close analysis of epic narratives, ritual texts, and material culture, we will compare traditions from different regions, including Mesopotamia, Syria, Israel, Egypt, Greece, and Rome, in order to better appreciate the rich diversity of human responses to death in the ancient world.