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This study examines clergy in colonial New England and how they depicted dead bodies in their funeral sermons. Whether it was second generation Puritan ministers like William Hubbard and Samuel Willard, or third generation ministers like Benjamin Colman and Benjamin Wadsworth, ministers imagined their resting subjects as a "pillar," "shield," "withering grass," or "vapor." I argue their language of the body, such as the use of specific terms within certain contexts, reflected social and religious trends in New England, from its Puritan origins to its welcoming of moderate Christianity in the eighteenth-century. Chapter Two observes Puritan funeral sermons and their relation to King Philip's War and second generation perception of natural depravity. Chapter Three discusses funeral sermons and their reflection of the third generation's shift toward English intellectualism and religious optimism. In conclusion, I argue funeral sermons and their generational developments spoke to more than specific superlatives of the dead. With the body of the dead as their canvas, New England ministers illustrated prevailing mentalities about religious and cultural thought. They spoke to how authority was mediated and to what extent human nature could be trusted. New England clergy entered into public discourse about the inherent abilities, or disabilities, their congregations were defined by. Through their imaginative definitions of dead bodies, they ventured to define survivors and their place in the Church.
A Thesis submitted to the Department of Religion in partial fulfillment of the Master of Arts.
Includes bibliographical references.
Amanda Porterfield, Professor Directing Thesis; John Corrigan, Committee Member; Michael McVicar, Committee Member; Jamil Drake, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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