Grief and the Arts in the West from the Middle Ages to the 21st Century: An Interdisciplinary Conference

deadline for submissions: 
January 15, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
KU Leuven
contact email: 

Grief and the Arts in the West from the Middle Ages to the 21st Century: An Interdisciplinary Conference


Leuven (Belgium), November 28–30, 2019


From the design of tombs and depictions of the Madonna grieving for her Son to the composition of Requiems and memorialization in grief memoirs and elegies: death and grief have often elicited the response of creativity. These expressions have, in turn, become important topics for investigation in the humanities. Nonetheless, this research often remains within the confines of single disciplines. The present conference aims to create a conversation between disciplines by bringing together research on expressions of grief from different epochs and in different art forms, media, and genres in the West.


While tackling specific questions and cases, we seek to open up interdisciplinary and diachronic reflections and capture the dynamic history of grief in the arts. In particular, we aim to ask how cultural expressions represent grief and become sites of reflection on the very phenomenon of mourning, both in the social and cultural context of their creation and in later use; how artistic artefacts functioned and still function as integral parts of funerary rituals and individual processes of mourning; and how rituals and processes themselves engage in a delicate dance with cultural trends.


We welcome 20-minute papers from any relevant discipline including, but not limited to, art history, literary studies, musicology, cultural history and cultural studies. The language of the conference will be English.


Possible topics:

  • grief in word, image and sound
  • the role of artistic expressions and artefacts in experiences and rituals of grief
  • the tension between individual or private and collective or public experiences of grief
  • funerary genres in different artistic traditions and their development
  • the relationship of art with philosophical, psychological and popular conceptions of grief
  • the representation of grief in popular culture (from woodcuts and songs to films and TV series)
  • commissioning grief


Please send a 250 word abstract and a short biography (50-100 words) to by 15 January 2019. Notification of acceptance will be sent by 1 March 2019. More information is available on our website: