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Curious Readers And Meditative Form In Thomas Browne’s Urne-Buriall

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Chapter Summary

Scholars and critics of Urne-Buriall (Hydriotaphia) have alternately admired its purple passages and scrutinized its ideas for evidence of Thomas Browne?s place in the early modern ?wars of truth?. This chapter suggests that Urne-Buriall functions as an occasional meditation whose operation is not principally logical or philosophical but rhetorical, not simply informing or even dazzling its audience, but moving it through a cycle of experience from mortification to spiritual renewal. Browne begins his discussion of the urns with facts, both historical and physical, but his treatment of them sends mixed signals. While a factual interpretation offers hope of an assured account of the urns? origins, Browne?s language subverts this assurance at every turn. Browne then proceeds to an argument based on the cessation of the practice of burning among the Romans.

Keywords: occasional meditation; Thomas Brown; Urne-buriall



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