B Michael-Fox: Writing, death & the self

01nov14:3016:00B Michael-Fox: Writing, death & the self14:30 - 16:00(GMT+00:00) View in my timeEvent typeWorkshopTopicEmbodied PracticeSession ID: Workshop 3C


(Monday) 14:30 - 16:00(GMT+00:00) View in my time

Event Details

Bethan Michael-Fox: Writing, Death and the Self


Writing is a profoundly social activity; it connects my thoughts to yours.

Les Back

Writers believe in the patterns their words make, which they hope and trust add up to ideas, to stories, to truths.

Julian Barnes

We should have the luxury of telling our stories, all our stories.

Ta-Nehisi Coates

I do think constantly of death, my death, the only one I’ll have.

Jenny Diski

This 90-minute session offers participants the opportunity to reflect on the themes of the conference, taking time to think, discuss and write in a collaborative space. Those attending will undertake a range of facilitated writing activities and produce a short piece of creative writing of their own.

The workshop is grounded in the concept of autothanatography, or what might be more simply termed self-death- writing. Though the term autothanatography is contested it has come to be associated with writing about death and the self that deviates from more traditional autobiographical endeavours. It explicitly engages with and reflects on impossibility – after all, how can you write about your own death? Yet those attending this conference likely engage with writing about death – our own, the deaths of loved ones, the death of the ‘other’, the death of the planet, social death, the death of the ‘self’ and much more – on a regular basis. In his novel Flaubert’s Parrot (1984) Julian Barnes writes: ‘Books make sense of life. The only problem is that the lives they make sense of are other people’s lives, never your own.’

When we write about our own lives and stories we perhaps utilise the writing process as a way to ‘make sense’ of life and death both for ourselves and others. This session will offer a range of stimuli and examples of arguably autothanatographical writing by authors including Julian Barnes, Jenny Diski and Ta-Nehisi Coates and encourage participants to reflect on the ways in which their own writing processes (academic, creative, day-to-day) function to ‘make sense’, or fail to ‘make sense’, of death. The session gives you an opportunity to leave with a piece of writing you have generated.

Speakers for this event

  • Dr Bethan Michael-Fox

    Dr Bethan Michael-Fox

    I work as an Associate Lecturer for the Open University, teaching a range of English literature, creative writing, interdisciplinary humanities and reflective learning modules. I am an Honorary Associate of the Open University’s School of English and Creative Writing and a member of the Open Thanatology research group. I was a lecturer and senior lecturer at the School of Education and English Language at the University of Bedfordshire from 2011-2018. I have published creative writing with Parthian and I regularly publish academic work, including autoethnographic video as well as more traditional outputs online and in print. I am interested in critical and cultural theory and collaborative and interdisciplinary research, am a Senior Fellow of the HEA and a Fellow of the RSA. I am a council member for the Association for the Study of Death and Society. Please feel welcome to connect on Twitter: @bethmichaelfox or LinkedIn or check out my website www.drbethanmichaelfox.com