Hannah Elmer

  • Fellowship year:2017-2018
  • University: Columbia University
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: Medieval Europe
  • Dissertation Title: Alive Enough: Reanimating the Dead in Central Europe, 1200-1545
  • My dissertation examine the problem of reanimation in the late middle ages in Central Europe. It focuses on a seemingly narrow miracle type in which dead, unbaptized infants were temporarily reanimated so that they could recieve the sacrament of baptism. Although such miracles occurred across much of Europe and became tremendously common at certain sites by the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, it is not their growing popularity that make them worthy of study. Fundamental concerns about life and death- and the human ability to intervene- emerge from the practices and beliefs converging around these tiny bodies.
    My work examines both religious and naturalistic contexts to see how premodern Europeans were seeking both to pinpoint and resist the moment of death. Alchemical discourses on prolongevity and universal medicines as well as medical discussions of vital spirits form just as important part of the story as theological and pastoral writings on miracles, death and burial, and baptismal regeneration.