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Food for Worms or Food for Birds? Sky Burial in Medieval Europe
Medieval people preferred to bury their dead, flesh still on bones, and to let worms do the work of breaking down the corpse; they thought it a horror to expose human bodies to the appetites of larger animals. They were aware, however, that their funeral rituals were not universal. Early medieval reactions to Zoroastrian funerals, and later medieval reactions to Tibetan, ranged from disgust to cosmopolitan indifference, until they culminated with the fourteenth-century Book of John Mandeville. In this lecture, CMRS Distinguished Visiting Scholar Karl Steel (English, Brooklyn College, and Graduate Center, CUNY) reads Mandeville’s admiring account of this interspecies cultural event alongside the mystique for sky burial in modern poetry, and modern trends in ecological funerals.
Co-sponsored by the UCLA Department of English.
Advance registration not required. No fee. Limited seating.
Funding for CMRS Distinguished Visiting Scholars is provided by the Humanities Division of the UCLA College of Letters and Sciences, and the Armand Hammer Endowment for the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.