Timor Mortis Conturbat Me

: Complicating Walter’s Traditional Community-based Death Typology Using Popular Literature

  • Rohan Elizabeth Brown

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Walter’s The Revival of Death (1994) is a core sociological text which provides the dominant methodological approach to academic reflections concerning death-related behaviour within historical English society in the field of Religious Studies. This thesis provides the first extensive academic critique of Walter’s ideal types of death detailed within his Revival of Death, identifying his misinterpretation and misrepresentation of Weberian ideals which form the foundational structure of his death typology. Removing Walter’s types of death from their idealised context, this study argues that his death typology provides a superficial perception of socio-historical attitudes towards death, which not only negates the effect that gender and class distinction had on societal behaviour, but that his typology is prone to variation and expansion when scrutinised.

This thesis expands Walter’s traditional era into three snapshots of history: the Middle Ages (c.1000-1535), the Protestant Reformation (c.1536-1660), and the nineteenth century (c.1800-1901), and utilising Walter’s own typological structure, critically explores and challenges the cohesiveness of the Bodily and Social Contexts of his Traditional type, which are determined by his formulation of a singular Archetypal Death. Through the theoretical implementation of various possible Archetypal Deaths into Walter’s typological structure, namely plague, leprosy, syphilis and tuberculosis, which in turn will be characterised as either morally or physically threatening, this thesis challenges the simplification of Walter’s Traditional type of death which destabilises his whole typology. The justification for these alternative Archetypal Deaths is evidenced through their prolificity within contemporary popular literature; popular literature acts methodologically within this thesis as crucial resources which serve to complicate, contextualise and identify correlations and commonalities of socio-historical death-related behaviour in England c.1000-1901. Thus, by critically exploring Walter’s Traditional death type in relation to representations of plague, leprosy, tuberculosis and syphilis in contemporary popular literature, this thesis seeks to establish whether the sociological typologisation of death is possible without creating homogeneity, and further questions, if this is not possible, what inherent value such typologisation has as a method of transmitting knowledge.
Date of Award14 Sep 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Winchester
SupervisorChristina Welch (Supervisor) & Inga Bryden (Supervisor)

Cite this

Timor Mortis Conturbat Me: Complicating Walter’s Traditional Community-based Death Typology Using Popular Literature
Brown, R. E. (Author). 14 Sep 2012

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis