The Penguin Book of the Undead: Fifteen Hundred Years of Supernatural Encounters

Edited by Scott G. Bruce. Penguin, $17 trade paper (284p) ISBN 978-0-14-310768-2
Spanning the years between the writing of Homer’s Odyssey (ca. 700 B.C.E.) and Shakespeare’s Hamlet (ca. 1599 C.E.), the contents of this exceptionally well-curated compilation show that the wide variety of accounts of the undead have been rampant in literature long before the Gothic era. Pliny the Younger, in a letter from the first century C.E., reports the exorcism of a chain-rattling ghost by interring the deceased’s unburied remains. William of Newburgh, writing in the 13th century C.E., relates tales of rampaging revenants who can only be disposed of through the decapitation and evisceration of their corpses. In the book’s grimmest account, the first-century C.E. poet Lucan writes about a necromancer who reanimates a soldier’s corpse to foretell the future. Bruce has chosen selections from numerous cultures, including ancient Greece, Anglo-Norman England, and medieval Scandinavia, with an emphasis on ecclesiastical writings whose frights served morally instructive purposes. His approach is scholarly, but he presents the contents with an enthusiasm that makes these mostly obscure works accessible to the casual reader. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/08/2016
Release date: 09/27/2016
Ebook - 978-0-698-40660-5
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