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Annual Marco Symposium

The annual Marco Symposium is held every year in late March or early April. The Symposium brings 10 leading experts in their field to the University of Tennessee for two days of talks on that year’s theme. A round-table discussion by all the participants concludes the weekend.

The Symposium is Marco’s signature event of the year, and typically attracts members of the larger Knoxville community in addition to students and faculty at UT and scholars from across the region. The theme of the Symposium changes each year. Faculty who are interested in submitting a proposal should contact


2019 Symposium: Death and Dying in Medieval Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

Friday & Saturday
April 5-6
Great Room, International House (1623 Melrose Ave.)
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville


In recent years, approaches to death and dying have become a subject of increasing concern both to scholars and the public. As medical advances in the western world have prolonged lifespans, fundamental questions of ethics and ontology emerge. Which bodies, which lives, will receive expensive interventions and who has the authority to make such decisions? When extending life via automated machinery, where does humanity end and robotics begin? And at the most basic level: what does it mean to die well, to make peace with one’s transition from life to death, from community to invisibility? There is now a cottage industry of books, TEDtalks, and even “death cafes,” dedicated to fostering conversation about this subject that so many of us simply seek to avoid, fear to confront.

The 2019 annual Marco symposium will convene a group of scholars of international stature to explore these questions from the perspective of deep religious history. Our premodern predecessors confronted processes of death and dying by elaborating striking rituals, poetry, funerary art, and institutions of communal caregiving. This symposium represents one of the nation’s first gatherings of specialists in medieval studies to examine collectively the theme of death and dying from the inter-religious perspective of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. They will present research on such topics as hospital foundations, bedside care, prayers for the dead, memorials, dissection, and reliquaries. Their approaches to the dead and the dying have much to inform our own culture about what it means to confront this ultimate reality that unites all humans, past and present, near and far.


Program Information:

Click here to view a PDF version of the full 2019 Symposium program.


Featured Speakers:

  • Shahzad Bashir (Brown Univ.)
    A Futural Death: Samarqand’s Shah-i Zinda Necropolis in Narrative and Architecture”
  • Seeta Chaganti (UC-Davis)
    “Death and Vestige: The Guild Chapel Danse macabre
  • Adam Davis (Denison Univ.)
    “Death, Salvation, and the Medieval Christian Charitable Imperative”
  • Susan Einbinder (Univ. of Connecticut)
    “Plague and Prayer: Hebrew Plague Liturgy from Medieval and Early Modern Italy”
  • Shirin Fozi (Univ. of Pittsburg)
    “The ‘Guest of the Body’: Figure and Presence in Hildesheim Tomb Sculpture”
  • Richard McGregor (Vanderbilt Univ.)
    “The Relic and Its Witness: Gaze and Display as Medieval Islamic Practice”
  • Stephennie Mulder (UT-Austin)
    “People of the Prophet’s House: The Role of the ‘Alid Shrines in Medieval Syria’s Sacred Landscape”
  • Amy Ogden (Univ. of Virginia)
    “Grief as Essential to Happy Endings: Evidence from a Christian Hagiographic Anthology (ca. 1200)”
  • David Shyovitz (Northwestern Univ.)
    “‘As One Dies, So Dies the Other’: Human and Animal Eschatology in Medieval Jewish Culture”
  • Nükhet Varlık (Rutgers)
    “Making the Self: Death and Burial in Early Modern Ottoman Society”


Registration Information:

The Marco Symposium is free and open to the public.

There is no official registration required, but it would help us to know that you are planning to come so that we can get a better head count and can print you a name tag. Please email our Program Coordinator, Dr. Katie Hodges-Kluck, at


Lodging for the 2019 Symposium:

For out-of-town guests attending the Symposium, the Marco Institute has set aside a small block of rooms at the Four Points by Sheraton Knoxville Cumberland House Hotel for the nights of April 4th, 5th, and 6th at a discounted rate of $109/night.

To make a reservation, visit:

This group rate will be available until March 15, 2019 (or until filled).


Guest Parking Information:

Visitor parking is located in the Volunteer Hall Garage (1545 White Ave.). Further details about UT visitor parking are available at the Parking & Transit Services website.

Free street parking is available in the neighborhoods around campus (e.g. Fort Sanders), but cannot be guaranteed. Guests can also get to campus via the free trolley from downtown.

The campus map is available online here.


Past Symposia

2018 Marco Symposium

Navigating Language in the Early Islamic World


2017 Marco Symposium

Carolingian Experiments

2016 Marco Symposium
Rome: Beyond the Discourse of Renewal
2015 Marco Symposium
‘Cry Havoc!’: War, Diplomacy and Conspiracy in the Middle Ages and Renaissance
2014 Marco Symposium
Reconceiving Pre-Modern Spaces
2012 Marco Symposium
Grounding the Book: Readers, Writers, and Places in the Pre-Modern World
2011Symposium 2011 Marco Symposium
Gardens, Real and Imagined
2010Symposium 2010 Marco Symposium
The Building Blocks of France
2009Symposium 2009 Marco Symposium
Humanism and Its Economies
2007Symposium 2007 Marco Symposium
Saints & Citizens: Religion and Politics in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance
2006Symposium 2006 Marco Symposium
The Book of Travels: Genre, Ethnology, Pilgrimage from 1250-1650

2005Symposium 2005 Marco Symposium
Interactions and Images: Cultural Contacts Across Eurasia, 600-1600

2004Symposium 2004 Marco Symposium
Spectacle and Public Performance in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

2003Symposium 2003 Marco Symposium

Books and Readers in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

2002Symposium 2002 Marco Symposium

Scripture and Pluralism: The Study of the Bible in the Sectarian Worlds of the Middle Ages and Renaissance