Study of the Intellectual and Material Culture of Death in Nineteenth Century America

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“…an important, integrated study of the intellectual and material culture of death in the United States…. uses an American Studies approach to synthesize existing literature in the field while applying a new interpretive framework to the subject.…Beyond its firm grounding in the secondary literature, it uses a large and quite representative body of published literary sources including novels, periodicals, poetry, newspapers, and funeral literature to show that mid-nineteenth Americans imposed the paradigm of democratic equalitarianism upon their experiences with death while at the same time insisting upon the preservation of the deceased’s individual identity….Steiner transcends familiar narratives about the impact of technology and professionalization on the death industry and instead examines the meaning of death and death rituals in a culture that valued both what was common to all and what was distinct about each. The result is a wide-ranging, yet focused cultural study.” – Paul E. Teed, Chair, Department of History, Saginaw Valley State University

“Steiner’s thesis that the changing perception of death was an instrumental part of the struggle to bring to life the American dream of equality is a unique and compelling analysis. His careful treatment of this cultural development illuminates an important aspect of American history with new light.” – Joel Benson, Northwest Missouri State University

“This book is a fine and unusual study of one major dimension of American culture in the middle of the nineteenth century, the culture of death…. A fascinating look at the intersection of the American passion for equality and the inevitable reality of death.” – Lawrence Barmann, Professor Emeritus, Saint Louis University

Table of Contents

Table of contents:
Preface; Introduction
1. The Context of Equality
2. The Culture of Death
3. Creating Immortality: Death and Material Culture
4. Transformations in the Gilded Age
5. Conclusion
Bibliography; Index

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