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Grant number: FA-57290-13

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Laura Vera Harwood Wittman
Stanford University (Stanford, CA 94305-2004)

A Cultural History of Near-Death Experiences in the Fiction, Science, and Popular Culture of the 20th-Century West

This book is the first cultural history of near-death experiences in the twentieth-century West: it brings together testimony, film and television, literature, and scientific study (including interviews with scientists). Beginning in the late nineteenth century, scientists stop seeing near-death as a case of mistaken diagnosis and become interested in the subjective experience of those they term "latter-day Lazaruses." At the same time, in popular culture, literature, and sociological study, the modern Lazarus, who has something compelling to reveal about death, becomes increasingly important. As the twentieth century progresses, near death continues to instigate dialogue between scientists and humanists on a number of key issues related to death and dying: in what ways is a brush with death psychologically transformative? what constitutes a "good death"? how does understanding near-death impact end-of-life care? does near death help us measure the nature and end of consciousness?

Project fields:
Comparative Literature

Fellowships for University Teachers

Research Programs

Total amounts:
$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
9/1/2014 – 8/31/2015