Inventing Afterlives: The Stories We Tell Ourselves About Life After Death (Hardback)
  • Inventing Afterlives: The Stories We Tell Ourselves About Life After Death (Hardback)
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Inventing Afterlives: The Stories We Tell Ourselves About Life After Death (Hardback)

(author)
£81.00
Hardback 392 Pages / Published: 31/08/2018
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Why is belief in an afterlife so persistent across times and cultures? And how can it coexist with disbelief in an afterlife? Most modern thinkers hold that afterlife belief serves such important psychological and social purposes as consoling survivors, enforcing morality, dispensing justice, or giving life meaning. Yet the earliest, and some more recent, afterlives strikingly fail to satisfy those needs.

In Inventing Afterlives, Regina M. Janes proposes a new theory of the origins of the hereafter rooted in the question that a dead body raises: where has the life gone? Humans then and now, in communities and as individuals, ponder what they would want or experience were they in that body. From this endlessly recurring situation, afterlife narratives develop in all their complexity, variety, and ingenuity. Exploring afterlives from Egypt to Sumer, among Jews, Greeks, and Romans, to Christianity's advent and Islam's rise, Janes reveals how little concern ancient afterlives had with morality. In south and east Asia, karmic rebirth makes morality self-enforcing and raises a new problem: how to stop re-dying. The British enlightenment, Janes argues, invented the now widespread wish-fulfilling afterlife and illustrates how afterlives change. She also considers the surprising afterlife of afterlives among modern artists and writers who no longer believe in worlds beyond this one. Drawing on a variety of religious traditions; contemporary literature and film; primatology; cognitive science; and evolutionary psychology, Janes shows that in asking what happens after we die, we define the worlds we inhabit and the values by which we live.

Publisher: Columbia University Press
ISBN: 9780231185707
Number of pages: 392
Dimensions: 229 x 152 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
Inventing Afterlives is an intensively researched and brilliant book. The question of what humans have made of the afterlife is fascinating and Janes, who knows more about this subject than any scholar living (or, dare I say it, dead), has achieved something like completeness in her survey of the material.--Blakey Vermeule, Stanford University
Regina Janes' Inventing Afterlives is a breezy but well-informed romp through the ages as cultures from those of primitive humans to those of the digital age do what the title of this manuscript states, invent afterlives, telling their members what to expect, or, as in our own age, telling them what cannot happen even if the space or site of the afterlife gives writers a perfect setting to stage righteous justice or cynical evasion.--Daniel T. O'Hara, Temple University

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