Journeys to the Underworld and Heavenly Realm in Ancient and Medieval Literature


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About the Book

Concepts of heaven and hell are among the oldest, most widespread religious beliefs in history. In Western literature, they are frequently embedded in stories of underworld explorations and celestial journeys—stories examining the nature of the universe, life on earth and the existence of the gods.
The author analyzes tales of wonder in both ancient and medieval European literature. Other-worldly narratives appeared in literary contexts in the ancient world, including mythology, poetry and philosophical writings. In medieval times, they remained a popular form of literary expression. These stories are primarily religious in nature, describing fantastic worlds filled with miracles and supernatural beings.

About the Author(s)

John C. Stephens is an adjunct professor of religion at San Joaquin Delta Community College in Stockton, California.

Bibliographic Details

John C. Stephens
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 183
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2019
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7451-3
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3497-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface  1
Introduction  3
One. Ancient Cosmology  17
Two. Numinous Otherworldly Journeys  27
Three. Mystical Otherworldly Journeys  48
Four. Journeys of Spiritual Transformation  68
Five. Courageous Journeys in the Face of Death  92
Six. The Journey to Philosophic Wisdom  107
Seven. The Journey to Moral Awareness  123
Conclusion  149
Chapter Notes  157
Bibliography  167
Index  171

Book Reviews & Awards

• “Ambitious…devotes an Introduction and seven rich chapters to this challenging topic…[the author’s] erudition and the genuine fascination for the subject matter emerge throughout…an accessible book. Stephen’s prose is engaging, and his research interests and intellectual curiosity are clearly apparent throughout. The chapters are usually well-structured…has tremendous potential and, at least in certain areas, J.C. Stephens succeeds in proving his arguments… The topic of otherworldly journeys is an exciting one.”—Bryn Mawr Classical Review

• “There is so much to praise and to value in this book…a generous book that opens a window on a vast reservoir of cultural expression unknown to the vast majority of modern readers. Stephens’s thesis roots these works in the religious substratum of their content, suturing them carefully to their historical context while still categorizing them thematically in a coherent narrative trajectory. Teachers and students of material that postdates the chronological boundaries of Stephens’s book will still find it an enriching, enlightening resource on the deep past of journey narratives.”—Smart—Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching

• “The topic of the book is very appealing. The author shows a wide knowledge of religion traditions and opens avenues for further research.”—Reviews in Religion & Theology

• “A fascinating and exceptionally informative read from beginning to end…recommended”—Midwest Book Review