In recent years there has been a massive upsurge in academic, professional and lay interest in mortality. This is reflected in academic and professional literature, in the popular media and in the proliferation of professional roles and training courses associated with aspects of death and dying.
Until now the majority of reference material on death and dying has been designed for particular disciplinary audiences and has addressed only specific academic or professional concerns. There has been an urgent need for an authoritative but accessible reference work reflecting the multidisciplinary nature of the field. This Encyclopedia answers that need.
The Encyclopedia of Death and Dying consolidates and contextualizes the disparate research that has been carried out to date. The phenomena of death and dying and its related concepts are explored and explained in depth, from the approaches of varied disciplines and related professions in the arts, social sciences, humanities, medicine and the sciences.
In addition to scholars and students in the field-from anthropologists and sociologists to art and social historians - the Encyclopedia will be of interest to other professionals and practitioners whose work brings them into contact with dying, dead and bereaved people. It will be welcomed as the definitive death and dying reference source, and an essential tool for teaching, research and independent study.
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G. Howarth, Reader in Sociology, University of Bath
Oliver Leaman is Professor of Philosophy and Zantker Professor of Judaic Studies at the University of Kentucky. He is the author of An Introduction to Classical Islamic Philosophy (2001), Evil and Suffering in Jewish Philosophy (1995), and is editor of Encyclopedia of Asian Philosophy ( 2001) and Companion Encyclopedia of Middle Eastern and North African Film (2001). He is co-editor, with Glennys Howarth, of Encyclopedia of Death and Dying (2001).
The editors see this encyclopedia as an introduction to the broad interdisciplinary area of the study of death and dying, aiming at both professional and academic audiences as well as general readers. There has been, as noted in the introduction, an increase in both scholarly and public literature on the subject as well as development in focus areas of professional occupations--in response to the hospice movement, for example.
In dictionary format, topics in historical, social, cultural, and technical areas are presented--from brief treatments on Autopsy, Pyre, and Rigor mortis to lengthier articles on Euthanasia, Graves, Hell, and Life support. Biographical entries and information on important associations and journals are also included. Most of the close to 100 contributors are from the United Kingdom or Australia; a British emphasis can be seen in vocabulary (e.g., "cot death," not "crib death"), spelling, and emphasis of many entries.
The terminology, selection, and tone of articles and coverage of topics do not seem to be consistently planned. For example, articles are included on some of the leading causes of death--stroke and cancer--but not coronary disease or Alzheimer's. The inclusion of some entries seems curious--why a fairly substantial article on solvent abuse when there are not other articles on various substance abuses? There are entries for Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Shintoism, and Buddhism but none for Christianity (although Christian practices are covered in many entries). There is an index by name and topic that can help with finding topics within articles. A bibliography accompanies the volume, and there are also suggested readings with articles.
Despite the introduction's claim that there are no reference works published on this topic, there have been a few others, notably Encyclopedia of Death, by Robert Kastenbaum and Beatrice Kastenbaum (Oryx, 1989). However, because the Kastenbaum title is now more than 10 years old, large public and academic libraries may want to consider the newer title to update information in this area. RBB
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