Life Writing & Death: Dialogues of the Dead

Life Writing and Death: Dialogues of the Dead


  • Clare Brant King's College London
  • James Metcalf King's College London
  • Jane Wildgoose King's College London



One thing in life we can be certain of: death. But how we talk about death—its inevitability, its causes and its course, its effects, or its places—is susceptible to changing cultural conditions. Reviewing a history of death that begins in prehistory, the distinguished historian of death Thomas Laqueur doubts it is possible to comprehend (in both senses) the topic: ‘Our awareness of death and the dead stands at the edge of culture. As such they may not have a history in the usual sense but only more and more iterations, endless and infinitely varied, that we shape into n engagement with the past and the present’.

Author Biographies

Clare Brant, King's College London

Clare Brant is Professor of Eighteenth-century Literature and Culture at King’s College London, where she also co-directs the Centre for Life-Writing Research. She co-edits the Palgrave series Studies in Life Writing, and has published widely. She proposes to write her own obituary to make sure she has one, to save anyone else the bother and to preserve a few of her best jokes. Email:

James Metcalf, King's College London

James Metcalf is a visiting research fellow at the Centre for Life-Writing Research at King’s College London. He recently completed his doctoral thesis, entitled ‘The Contemplators: Poetry and the Churchyard in the Long Eighteenth Century’, which reappraises the conventional category of ‘graveyard poetry’ by focusing on the eighteenth-century occupation of the churchyard as the specific locus of a death-centred poetics of contemplation. Reconsidering the work of Thomas Parnell, Robert Blair, Edward Young, and Thomas Gray, James’ thesis also reveals a continuity of poetic preoccupation with the churchyard by including traditionally ‘Romantic’ writers such as Charlotte Smith and William Wordsworth as they adopt and revise its history, culture, and poetics. His current research interests concern literary responses to the revelations of earth science in the long eighteenth century.

Jane Wildgoose, King's College London

Dr. Jane Wildgoose is an artist and researcher and Visiting Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Life-Writing Research at King’s College London. Her practice centres on collecting, memory and remembrance. She works to commission with museums and has exhibited at Kensington Palace (Historic Royal Palaces), Waddesdon Manor (Rothschild Collections/National Trust) and Sir John Soane’s Museum in the UK and the Yale Center for British Art in the USA. Her recent publications include ‘Post-Specimens and Present Ancestors: Passing Fables & Comparative Readings at The Wildgoose Memorial Library—An Artist’s Response to the “Unique
Status” of Postcolonial Human Remains in Museums’, in Post-Specimen: Interobjective Encounters in Art, Science and Museology, Ed Juler and Alistair Robinson, ed. (Intellect Books, forthcoming, 2020). E-mail:





Life Writing & Death: Dialogues of the Dead