Some anthropological reflections on widowhood

July 9, 2008


Name: Leonard MARS


Citation Recommendation: Mars, Leonard. ‟Some anthropological reflections on widowhood”. Synthesis, no. XXXIV-XXXV, 2007-2008, pp. 3-19.

Pages: 3-19
Language: English


Anthropology is the comparative study of society and culture, usually practised by the method of participant observation, but its theories and methods can and have been applied to literary texts. In this paper I shall consider the status of the widow in various societies and cultures based on my eclectic reading which ranges from the Bible to modern novels and short stories. In my own fieldwork, conducted in Israel, Wales and Hungary, I have of course encountered many widows and widowers though I have never made a study of their social position, hence my resort to examples taken from a range of literature.


The Bible. King James Version. The Book of Genesis and The Book of Ruth.

Dalos, Gyorgy (2001). The Circumcision. Sydney: Brandl and Schlesinger. (First published in Hungarian as Körülmetélés, 1990.)

Hardy, Thomas (1891). The Son’s Veto. In: Harold Orel (ed.), Victorian Short Stories. London: Dent. Everyman Classic, 1987.

Heath, Roy (1988). The Shadow Bride. London: Flamingo.

Mars, Leonard (1984). “What Was Onan’s Crime?” In: Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 26. No. 3, 189-202.

Idem (1990). “Coming of Age Among Jews: Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah Ceremonies.” In: Paul Spencer (ed.), Anthropology and the Riddle of the Sphinx: Paradoxes of Change in the Life Course. London: Routledge, p. 58-75.

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