Friday, 22 March 2019 at 9:00 am – Friday, 22 March 2019 at 6:00 pm

Death and the Sacred Symposium

Date: Friday 22nd March 2019

Location: The Brooks Building, 53 Bonsall St, Manchester M15 6GX

Tickets: 9am - 6pm

Tickets: Full Rate for paid staff/non-students - £55, Subsidised PG student/Staff rate - £30 Available here 


This symposium will focus on literature, arts and practice where individuals, groups, artists and writers explore a range of topics and themes deemed sacred and their interaction with death. Across all religions and cultures, death and dying has always loomed over sacred sites, texts, practises and journeys, and death has always commanded ritual and sacred attention. The theme ‘death and the sacred’, therefore, provides a fruitful topic for thinking about how the uniquely ordained, set aside, extraordinary features of particular locations and sites, bodies, practises and belief systems are influenced, reformed and repurposed by death.
Along with considering the sacred nature of death, the symposium will incorporate the contemplation and discussion of such issues as the dialogue between humanity and spirituality in the face of increasing globalisation, materialism, communication, consumerism, science and technology. As part of this quest, it will consider the degree to which the sacred is still tied to religious and theological identity, its seemingly non-religious forms, and whether the sacred is being regenerated or eroded to the point of death in contemporary society. It will consider connected issues such as the relation of the sacred to issues of community, mourning and loss, and it will contemplate the politics and ethics of the sacred in contemporary society.

This interdisciplinary symposium aims to explore, analyse and debate the relationship between death and the sacred in art and narrative.

We are thrilled to be inviting Andrew Michael Hurley (author of The Loney and Devil’s Day and alumni of Manchester Metropolitan University’s Manchester Writing School), Rosie Garland (Author of Vixen, The Night Brother and writer in residence at John Rylands Library) and Jenn Ashworth (Author of A Kind of Intimacy, Cold Light, The Friday Gospels and Fell).

Simon Marsden will give a keynote. Simon Marsden is Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Liverpool. His research focuses on intersections of religion and literature from the Romantic era to the present. He is the author of Emily Brontë and the Religious Imagination (2014) and The Theological Turn in Contemporary Gothic Fiction: Holy Ghosts (2018), and has published widely in edited collections and in journals including Literature and Theology and Gothic Studies.

Organised by Eleanor Beal. Eleanor Beal is associate Lecturer at Manhester Metropolitan University, researching feminism, religion, theology and the gothic.

Full schedule:

8.00 - 9.00am: Registration for attendees with Coffee and Refreshments

9.00 - 9.30 am: Welcome and opening remarks by Dr Eleanor Beal (Manchester Metropolitan University)

9.30 - 10.30am: Panel 1.1 Cemeteries I: Non-Conformist Remembrance

  • Rodica Arpanasu (MMU): Death in popular art and imagination: The Merry Cemetery – a space of the sacred, a space of the mundane
  • Lucy Talbot (Winchester): The Goose is Loose; Awakening the Spirit at Crossbones Graveyard: Myth, Mystery, and Gendering Space.
  • Chair: tbc

9.30 - 10.30: Panel 1.2 Cemeteries II: The Art of Memorialisation

  • Siobhan Maguire-Broad (Huddersfield): The Shadow of Death – What is Sacred in a Nonconformist Cemetery of a Cemetery - An Overview of St George’s Fields History
  • Siobhan Barry (MMU): Art of Remembrance: Sculpting an Idea
  • Chair: tbc

10.30 - 11.00am: Coffee and refreshments

11.00 - 12.00: Panel 2.1 Churches and Bodies of Technology

  • Becky Alexis - Martin (MMU): Deus Ex Atomica: Death, memorialisation and nuclear warfare
  • Chris Gerrard (Dundee): Frankenstein Re-membered
  • Chair: tbc

11.00 - 12.00: Panel 2.2 The Sacred and Profane in Gothic Writing

  • Mark Robinson (Sunderland): The Sacred and Profane in the 19th Century Gothic Novel
  • Jon Greenaway (MMU): A Brief History of Skulls: The Function of Bones in Gothic Literature.
  • Chair: Emma Liggins

12.00 - 13.00: Lunch and Film Screening: ‘Frankenstein Re-membered’ by Christopher Gerrard

13.00 - 14.30: Writers in Conversation

  • Reading Event with award-winning authors Andrew Michael Hurley, Rosie Garland, Catherine Wilcox and Jenn Ashworth
  • Chair: Eleanor Beal

14.30 - 15.00: Coffee and refreshments

15.00 - 16.00: Panel 3.1 Haunting and Purification

  • Emma Liggins (MMU): ‘A Crypt-like Damp Filled My Mouth’: Sacred Space as Sepulchral and Haunting in the writing of John Ruskin and Vernon Lee
  • Jessica Gosling (Goldsmiths): Extreme Unction: Decadent Purification in Ernest Dowson’s Catholic Poetry
  • Chair: tbc

15.00- 16.00: Panel 3.2 Martyrs

  • Argyro Tsampazi (Belfast): A Journey Through Ascetic Rituals and Dance Movement: Exploring the Myth of Medea.
  • Stephen Curtis (Lancaster): Dying in the name of: From John Foxe to Pascal Laugier
  • Chair: Jon Greenaway

16.00-17.00: Closing Keynote by Dr Simon Marsden (University of Liverpool): ‘“Yes, we await it! – but it still delays”: The Victorian Texts that Never End’.

17.00 - 17.45: Wine reception and Book Signing with our ‘Writers in Conversation’ panel

18.00: Conference Dinner (at own expense)

For more information, please contact:

Eleanor Beal ·

Book Tickets

RAH! - Research in Arts and Humanities