Women and the Rituals of Death in the Early Modern World

deadline for submissions: 
May 18, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Emily Fine/ RSA 2018
contact email: 

This panel will explore women’s involvement in the death and memorial practices of the early modern world. While early modern women were actively involved in the processes that surround death and dying, they are curiously absent from prescriptive advice in ars moriendi treatises of the late sixteenth and seventeenth century, which typically feature a dying man surrounded by a retinue of male advisors and friends. This exclusion creates a disjunction between the representation and the reality of women’s involvement in the rituals of death. This panel will begin to piece apart this disjunction by examining the following questions: What roles did women perform in the rituals of dying, and how were their actions represented in literature or art? What might any differences between the literary representation of women’s involvement in the dying processes and historical evidence of their involvement reveal about gendered expectations for dying well? What material practices did women engage in with regard to death and memory?

Potential topics might include:

  • Women’s presence at the deathbed
  • Gendered differences in dying well or poorly
  • Conduct manuals and/or instructions for women on dying well
  • Women’s memorial practices
  • Women and will writing or inheritance
  • Women’s involvement in funerary practices

I am particularly interested in papers that address women’s memorial practices in non-Christian contexts, but papers on Protestant or Catholic contexts will also be welcome. Please submit 150 word abstract and short cv by Thursday, May 18.