Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name




Committee Chair

Biberman, Steven Matthew

Author's Keywords

Finitude; Mortality; Infinitude; Sexuality; Limit-experience; Spirituality


Spirituality in art; Spirituality in literature; Sex in art; Sex in literature


This thesis explores the eroticism of mortality and spirituality during the Early Modern Period. This thesis argues that this eroticism stems from anxiety about the loss of human control to the forces of Death and the Divine. This led writers and artists to frame mortality in terms of the limit-experience of sexuality. By characterizing death as an intimate relationship with a personified figure, Early Modern artists could explore mortality’s hold over humanity, as well as humanity’s ability to choose mortality willingly. Mortality was also intricately linked to the religious fervor of the Early Modern Period, as believers sought to eroticize their spiritual relationships with the only being they considered more powerful than Death, their God. This relationship with God allowed believers to transcend the boundaries of finitude and cross into infinitude. This thesis identifies tropes associated with this impulse and provides a survey of key sources involved in their exploration.