Literature Confronting Mortality

Abstract deadline: October 1, 2020
Article submission deadline: May 1, 2021

“What does it mean to be a self-conscious animal?” asked American philosopher Ernest Becker in The Denial of Death (1973), suggesting, that “[t]he idea is ludicrous if it is not monstrous. It means to know that one is food for worms.” This issue of Alif will explore the ways in which literature from a variety of genres and geographic contexts engages mortality, asking questions, such as: How do we as mortal organisms come to terms with, deny, fictionalize, defy, grieve, and rage against the fact that our existence here is finite? How does literature (understood here in the broadest possible sense to include a wide range of both fictional and non-fictional writings) provide narratives that give voice to our deepest fears, express our grief about loss, or reflect cultural changes in the way we approach, or do not approach, the impermanence of all living beings (and non-living things) on this planet? How have literature and other art forms attempted across different historical periods to immortalize the self through the creative process? This issue of Alif welcomes contributions from a variety of cultural backgrounds that decenter, critique, and/or complicate predominant notions of the meaning of mortality for human creativity. 
Article topics might include, but are not restricted to, the following:

  • Comparative perspectives on death, loss, and grief
  • Haunting, literary ghosts, and specters
  • Notions of afterlives (e.g. Inferno and Paradiso)
  • Elegies, eulogies, and obituaries
  • Denial of death and immortality fantasies
  • Narratives of illness and dying
  • Creativity as immorality
  • The undead: zombies, vampires, etc.
  • Encounters between the worlds of the living and the dead
  • Representations of rituals engaging death in various cultural contexts
  • Literature as Trauerspiel (Tragic Drama, Walter Benjamin)

Key Dates

October 1, 2020  Deadline for submission of abstracts (300 words)
May 1, 2021 Deadline for submission of full articles
Spring 2022 Publication date 

Alif is a refereed, annual, multi-lingual, and multi-disciplinary journal published by the Department of English and Comparative Literature at the American University in Cairo. Each issue revolves around a theme or a problematic, bringing together the views and approaches of scholars from all over the world.

Alif has been selected by MLA as a distinguished journal and has been made available electronically through JSTOR academic service  (

Submission instructions: An initial 300-word abstract should be submitted by October 1, 2020, accompanied by the author’s email address, telephone number, and postal address. Articles based on accepted abstracts should be between 5000 and 10000 words and may be submitted in Arabic, English, or French by electronic mail to, together with an abstract of 100 words and a 50-word biographical note on the contributor. The authors should consult the MLA Handbook for style in preparing their manuscript. 

Only original articles that do not duplicate previously published work, including the author’s, and are not under review by another journal or collection will be considered.

Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics, Dept. of English and Comparative Literature
American University in Cairo, 113 Kasr Al Aini Street, PO Box 2511,
Cairo 11511, Egypt
Tel.: (+ 202) 2797-5107