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Death in Scotland

Chapters From the Twelfth Century to the Twenty-First


Peter C. Jupp and Hilary J. Grainger

For the past twenty years, Scottish death culture has emerged as a focus of scholars drawn from a wide variety of disciplines. Death comes to us all but too often we treat it as a private or personal matter. The former taboo about death is slowly lifting and contemporary research is playing an increasing part. Accordingly, the fifteen essays gathered in this book probe the multi-facetted role of death in Scottish history and culture. They explore personal fears of death, anxieties about Predestination, prayers for the dead and the appeal of Spiritualism. They analyse the public face of death in law, economics and medicine: changes in capital punishment, funeral poverty, the teaching of anatomy and prevention of stillbirths. Within the worlds of religion and ritual, they consider the making of saints, burial practice following the Scottish Reformation and the tradition of keening within the Gáidhealtachd. With an Introduction by Professor Jane Dawson, these essays by specialists in the field not only highlight the richness of the primary sources for studying death in Scotland but reveal how death studies identify key features of Scottish life and society across ten centuries.

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9 Approaching the End: Hogg’s Confessions (Ian Campbell)


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9 Approaching the End: Hogg’s Confessions


The recent critical re-evaluation of James Hogg (whose collected works are now at last being critically edited and published by Edinburgh University Press in the Stirling/South Carolina edition) has revealed him as a many-sided writer of talent. His best-known work, The Confessions of a Justified Sinner, 1824, is a study of the psychology and eventual self-destruction of a fanatical Calvinist who believes himself guaranteed salvation to Heaven, a study pursued by extraordinary inventiveness and original narrative devices. The interplay between the editorial voices, the central character‘s own account of his life and actions, and the impossibility of pinning down any exact detail of his death, make an intriguing and bizarre climax. Did he die? When did he die? In what circumstances? Was it suicide? Were supernatural forces (as he believed) involved? The challenge of Hogg‘s astonishingly modern narrative construct presents today’s reader with a conundrum surrounding the question of the central character‘s life and death. The chapter will explore the many contradictory and evasive accounts and their bearing on our reading.

‘Approaching the End’ is an examination of James Hogg’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner of 1824, an exceptionally subtle and well-crafted examination of religious extremism in the eighteenth century, an illustration of the distortions possible by rigid adherence to antinomian interpretations of Scripture – and above all, by an astonishing presentation of a Faustian encounter in Enlightened...

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