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  • 2020IgnatovaPhD

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The idea of the walking dead in medieval historical texts with particular reference to the English examples

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date29/06/2020
Number of pages255
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
Original languageEnglish


This thesis explores the origins and purpose of the stories about restless corpses appearing in the medieval Latin sources created in England between the eleventh and the fifteenth centuries. By engaging with a wide variety of sources, including ancient texts, walking-dead stories created in medieval Europe and Iceland, early modern and modern collections of folk tales, medieval medical treatises, and excavation reports, this thesis endeavours to provide a new insight into the nature of the accounts about revenants appearing in medieval English sources. Walking-dead stories have been seen as the remnants of the pagan Germanic beliefs, the superstitions of the unlearned masses, which somehow found their way into the written narratives. By (1) studying these stories within the context of a wider variety of sources, in contrast to the previously accepted methodology of studying a walking-dead story only as a part of the work in which it appears, and (2) checking the available evidence for the existence of popular superstitions regarding the dangerous dead against a larger range of sources than has been done previously, this thesis challenges the traditional way of viewing the stories about wandering cadavers as originating from popular beliefs, and proposes and alternative point of view, namely, that walking-dead stories were composed by the learned authors on the basis of the earlier sources.