ICMS 2024: Crafting the Afterlife: Depictions of Heaven, Hell, and Unearthly Spaces in Medieval Literature

deadline for submissions: 
September 15, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Krista Telford & H.M. Cushman
contact email: 

Depictions of the afterlife abound in medieval texts of every genre and form. From descriptions of heaven, hell, and purgatory to explorations of reincarnation and mythical spaces like Hades and the Elysian fields, medieval thinkers utilized art, music, literature, and theology to imagine different forms of life after death. In turn, such texts shaped what the afterlife looked like, sounded like, and felt like. With every work of writing and art, the afterlives depicted in classical literature and scripture took on slightly or drastically different forms. This session seeks to delve into the medieval construction of the afterlife, examining how life after death was depicted, interpreted, and experienced in medieval culture, both within and beyond Europe. We invite proposals that examine the crafting of heaven, hell, and other unearthly spaces and especially encourage papers that consider multiple or interdisciplinary texts.

 We welcome papers that explore, but are not limited to, the following topics:

  • Literary and dramatic representations of the afterlife 
  • Theological and philosophical discussions of the afterlife
  • The afterlife in art, music, and visual culture 
  • Depictions of Edenic or paradisiacal spaces 
  • Depictions of the afterlife and paradise in travel literature
  • Secular explorations of life after death
  • Classical and renaissance reception
  • Discussions of transcendence 
  • Contemptus mundi texts 
  • Saints’ lives and visions 
  • Devotional texts 
  • Liturgy and the afterlife 
  • Medieval soteriology and exegesis 

Deadline for Submissions: September 15, 2023

Official proposals to ICMS sessions must be made through the Confex proposal portal. Please follow the ICMS guidelines and instructions for submission: https://icms.confex.com/icms/2023/cfp.cgi 

For information about the International Congress of Medieval Studies (May 9-11, 2024), see https://wmich.edu/medievalcongress.