The Sin-Eater: Ritual and Representation in a Hypermodern World
This article sheds light on the sin-eater – a shadowy character occasionally glimpsed by, yet tantalisingly elusive to historians of popular funeral customs. Any historical survey of this subject begs as many questions as it yields answers, but here I adopt an alternative approach. Slipping between historical fact and present-day fiction, I contend that the sin-eater and his (or occasionally her) ritual has latterly come alive again through the media of film, television and literature as a means of expressing and exploring some of the existential contradictions and anxieties engendered by present times. In thus collapsing boundaries between the historical personage and their present-day fictional representations, the sin-eater is revealed as much more than mere antiquarian curiosity; instead, they become a timeless Everyperson.
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