Document Type

Article

Publication Date

Spring 3-28-2013

Abstract

Ars Moriendi: A Selection of Texts Concerning the Phenomenon of Death was an entry in the 2013 Collins Memorial Library Book Collecting Contest. In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

This book collection takes its title, Ars Moriendi (Latin for ‘the art of dying’), from a late medieval literary tradition consisting of texts that ‘guide’ readers through a rigorous programme that teaches the art of ‘dying well.’ (As the lore has it, if one were to follow the instructive dictates of an ars moriendi text verbatim, then one’s soul would be guaranteed salvation from eternal damnation in the life to come.) ... Presented herein are thirty items of literature that I take to be exemplars (or direct descendants) of this tradition. ... While many of these texts are reference books that consider the phenomenon of death itself from a strictly scientific or theological perspective, others consider the human response to death as the crucial issue, adopting an anthropological or a psychological point of view. The styles of writing featured range from the metaphysical to the fictional, from the ‘informed’ to the ‘informal.’ Several inclusions are humorous, or at the least, meant to be tongue-in-cheek. However, I believe that these texts are all united under the banner of the ars moriendi tradition, in that they indicate the human need to formulate a response to the prospects of death and human finitude: the need to determine what it means to ‘die well.’