Gepubliceerd op 18-08-2016

Call for Papers: Seminar ‘Six Feet Under: Exploring Death in Popular Culture’

This is a call for presentations for a proposed seminar to be held as part of the American Comparative Literature Association’s Annual Meeting that will take place at Utrecht University in Utrecht, the Netherlands July 6-9, 2017.
Those interested are encouraged to contact the seminar organizers (adriana.teodorescu@gmail.com, kundudevaleena@gmail.com) before uploading their abstracts to ACLA website.

“There’s a certain safety in death” exclaims Jaime Lannister in one of the most widely acclaimed TV shows of this decade, Game of Thrones. Jamie’s utterance, while profound and philosophical, is evocative of the now formulaic trend in the entertainment history: intense and violent portrayals of death have undoubtedly made ‘death’ the most remarkable and striking expression of our times. The overwhelming number of death-centric movies, series, texts, songs and video clips, among other forms of ‘entertainment’ not only attract a wide and enthusiastic global reception, but also fuel discussions concerning the socio-cultural responses toward death and dying. The presence of death in contemporary popular culture might be a symptom of the fact that death is no longer (if it was ever) a taboo (Aries 1977).

What makes thanatological themes desirable in popular culture? Do representations of the macabre and gore (popular examples include Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games trilogy or the slasher A Nightmare on Elm Street) perpetuate or sublimate violent desires? Does the depiction of corpses in crime mystery shows induce necrophiliac voyeurism? How is the equation between the hunter and the hunted executed in homicidal dramas such as Dexter, Fargo, and The Fall? Has contemporary popular culture succeeded in assuaging the “conversational unease” (Walter 1991) centering death? Is it the eternal human desire for immortality that translates into creative productions like Forever, True Blood, and the psychologically chilling French series Les Revenants? Can video games – Grand Theft Auto IV and The Last of Us riveting millions of gaming enthusiasts – help cope with mortality? What about music (suicide odes like Lana Del Rey’s Born to Die being oft-viewed YouTube tracks)? To what extent do they participate in constructing death as a social/cultural fact? Are all the thanatic discourses of popular culture the same from an aesthetic point of view?

With the understanding that interdisciplinarity is the key to exploring such a profound and intricate field of study, the seminar invites submissions that include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following:

  • death bed scenes, funerary rites, bereavement
  • death of celebrities
  • aesthetics of gore; macabre and popular reception
  • reversible death, immortality, and the undead 
  • thanatography
  • death in comic books
  • cartoon characters facing death
  • death anxiety and comedic relief
  • dirges, songs of salvation, death metal
  • collective death in human extinction movies
  • the death of the beloved in romance movies
  • envisaging death: material culture and photography
  • video games industry and the creation of the (un)limited deaths/ lives
  • contemporary popular culture and folklore
  • displaying death in news, TV shows: patterns and policies

Please submit your paper proposal through the ACLA’s online submission portal, which will be open between September 1 and September 23 2016. Queries can be directed to:
Adriana Teodorescu (adriana.teodorescu@gmail.com)
Devaleena Kundu (kundudevaleena@gmail.com).

URL: https://www.acla.org/six-feet-under-exploring-death-popular-culture

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