Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-vii

Acknowledgments

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pp. viii-viii

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Prologue

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pp. 1-29

Contemporary American funerals often assume the character and roles of festival. That presents a paradox in conflict with traditional perceptions of ritual behaviors associated with death. Human beings characteristically invent and reinvent traditional folklife to suit their contemporary needs. With changes over time in cultural attitudes and behaviors, familiar traditional customs become intertwined with...

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One: Funerals as Festivals: The Irony of Festivity around Death and Its Americanness

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pp. 30-43

There is a striking juxtaposition of mingled emotions in funerary behavior. Grief in sorrow for the absent loved one, and the joy that results from festive reunion and celebratory activities with close family and friends coalesce in the ritual responses to death. The events surrounding mourning, memorial or funeral rites, and burial or cremation require sober reflection and response, but for most contemporary...

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Two: The Final Passage: Rituals for Separating from Life

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pp. 44-58

In a culture as diverse as the United States, the rituals for separating from life are also diverse and distinct. A commonality often referred to lies in the analogy of death and sleep. The living perform the utmost efforts to assist the dying to fall asleep in death as peacefully as possible. The dying very often consciously enter the liminal space between mortality as they have known it, and the ultimate finality of...

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Three: Wakes and Other Amusements: Frivolities around Death, Including Humor

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pp. 59-78

At the pinnacle of a sacred ceremony, a christening, baptism, wedding, or funeral, there is, as discussed previously, momentary shared harmony. To laugh aloud at such a moment may be a temptation, but it simply isn't done. In 1907, just past the Victorian age of dictated social propriety, James Sully wrote that at those very occasions "in which an unusual degree of solemnity is forced upon us" (Sully 1907: ...

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Four: Funeral Biscuits and Funeral Feasts: Foods for Hope and Comfort

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pp. 79-115

Throughout the world, funeral rites and associated foods--even feasts-have been a traditional part of behavior associated with responses to the spiritual and sacred nature of death. With elements common to all cultures, foods affirm identity, strengthen kinship bonds, provide comfortable and familiar emotional support during periods of stress, and gently introduce outsiders to lesser-known culinary...

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Five: Mourners' Rites: After the Funeral

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pp. 116-125

Jacques Derrida wrote reflective and eloquent letters of condolence, memorial essays, eulogies, and funeral orations in response to the deaths of many of his well-known colleagues and contemporaries. His associates were thinkers and scholars of international stature: Roland Barthes, Paul De Man, Michel Foucault, Louis Althusser, Gilles Deleuze, Jean-Franc╠žois Lyotard, and others. They opened doors to ...

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Six: Explaining the Festival and the American Way of Death: Saying Good-bye

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pp. 126-133

Americans are pragmatic people, and their views are sometimes so matter-of-fact as to be surprising to observers. I was told recently that in Chicago there is a boulevard with many funeral parlors along one side. Across from the mortuaries there are several restaurants with banquet halls that serve the post-funeral banquet needs. My acquaintance...

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Epilogue

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pp. 134-141

It takes time to let go of a loved one. Some individuals firmly believe that bodies will be resurrected through the power of God; some people believe that bodies will be revived through the power of science. Some believe that the physical body will somehow be absorbed into a greater, universal whole; others believe that as long as people retain memory of living individuals, the metaphorical spirit of the departed...

Notes

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pp. 142-145

References

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pp. 146-154

Index

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pp. 155-158