Speaking for the Dead

Pedersen, A. B. (Lecturer)

Activity: Talks and presentationsTalks and presentations in private or public companies


In Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing (2002), Margaret Atwood suggests that “perhaps all writing, is motivated, deep down, by a fear of and fascination with mortality – by a desire to make the risky trip to the Underworld, and to bring back something or someone from the dead” (156). Usually, this act of traveling to the world beyond death is reserved for necromancers, deities or, as Ernest Becker explains in “The Terror of Death” (1973), heroes: “The hero was the man who could go into the spirit world, the world of the dead, and return alive” (163?). Writers, then, become heroes who attempt to speak to, about, and for the dead, who have lost the ability to speak for themselves. As Atwood explains, the dead are eager to communicate with the living: “[D]ead bodies can talk if you know how to listen to them, and they want to talk, and they want us to sit down beside them and hear their sad stories… [T]hey don’t want to be recounted. They don’t want to be pushed aside, obliterated. They want us to know” (163). Since the dead are voiceless, authors must act as mediators, so that the “sad stories” of the dead may be communicated to the living (readers). Yet, how does one speak for the dead in a responsible manner?
Period13 Nov 2017
Held atDødedag - SUKK (Sundhed, reproduktion, Køn og Krop) - Syddansk Universitet, Denmark


  • Margaret Atwood
  • Ernest Becker
  • Death Studies
  • Death Narratives
  • Sylvia Likens
  • Sylvia Marie Likens
  • Torture
  • Murder
  • Femicide
  • J. Jack Halberstam
  • Halberstam
  • In a Queer Time and Place
  • Brandon Teena
  • True Crime
  • American Culture
  • Gender Studies
  • Elaine Scarry
  • Femicide Narratives
  • The Body in Pain
  • Feminist Criticism
  • Feminism
  • Kate Millett
  • Kate Millett's The Basement
  • The Politics of Cruelty
  • Jacques Derrida
  • Dead Narrators
  • Stephen King's Carrie