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OtherworldsFantasy and History in Medieval Literature$
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Aisling Byrne

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198746003

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198746003.001.0001

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Otherworlds and the Afterlife

Otherworlds and the Afterlife

Chapter:
(p.68) 2 Otherworlds and the Afterlife
Source:
Otherworlds
Author(s):

Aisling Byrne

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198746003.003.0003

Although depictions of the afterlife constitute a ‘special case’ in having a clearly defined meaning derived from an ideology external to the text, they also share much imaginative and thematic material with descriptions of places like fairyland. This chapter focuses on two of the most widely disseminated otherworld depictions: the Tractatus de Purgatorio Sancti Patricii and the Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis. It also highlights a particularly striking use of biblical allusions in a fantastical context in the late medieval Irish text Echtra Thaidhg. It concludes by arguing that many otherworld motifs actually owe more to Christian culture than potential layers of pre-Christian Celtic beliefs. This is particularly evident in the case of Sir Orfeo. This text features an otherworld description often considered Celtic in origin, but which actually draws most heavily on the Book of Revelation.

Keywords:   afterlife, Earthly Paradise, Purgatory, Saint Patrick’s Purgatory, Saint Brendan, romance, Marie de France, the bible, Sir Orfeo, Thomas of Erceldoune

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