Mourning and Religion

Mourning and Religion: 
Psychoanalytic Reflections on the Role of Religion in Individual and Cultural Loss

October 26-27, 2007
University of Chicago Divinity School
Swift Lecture Hall
1025 East 58th Street
Chicago, Illinois, 60637

This conference will address connections among religion, mourning, and psychoanalysis, taking each term as both framework and object of analysis. The focus of the conference involves the paradox of mourning: the mourning (and melancholy) that follow death and other forms of loss and change entails a psychic labor with a creative dimension. New forms of memory, identity, morality and solidarity can be produced on the individual level; and new cultural products, such as the theoretical inventiveness of psychoanalysis and religious studies themselves, may emerge on the cultural level.

Religion will be considered as a mediator of mourning in papers that speak to its role in the transformation of meaning wrought by the mourning of death and loss. Religion will also be considered as a lost object itself, as a set of symbolic structures whose efficacy has been lost to those who take their bearings from a secular worldview. Following the work of Peter Homans, who has traced the origins of psychoanalysis to Freud's loss of traditional religious involvement, these papers undercut the usual dichotomies of secular/religious and mourning/melancholy, demonstrating an internal and ongoing relationship to a reworked conception of religion embedded within such presumedly secular disciplines as psychoanalysis and the academic study of religion.

Please join us as we consider the roles of religion, mourning, and psychoanalysis in our plural and interconnected worlds of belief and doubt, faith and disillusionment, engagement and critique.

Sponsored by the Divinity School of the University of Chicago with the Center for Religion and Psychotherapy of Chicago. Contact Celia Brickman,, for details


Click here to download the brochure for this conference. (pdf)

Friday Evening

Introductory Remarks
Diane Jonte-Pace & Celia Brickman

Symbolic Loss and the Re-Creation of Meaning: Freud and Eliade as Culture Makers
Peter Homans
Respondent: Celia Brickman


Melancholia and Religion in French Feminist Theory
Diane Jonte-Pace
Respondent: Mary Ellen Ross

The Persistence of the Past: Framing Symbolic Loss in the Context of Race
Celia Brickman
Respondent: Susan Henking

15 Minute Break

Psychology and Unchurched Spirituality
William Parsons
Respondent: Ernest Wallwork

Mourning Modern Ethics on the Couch
Ernest Wallwork
Respondent: Bertram Cohler


Mourning and Immortality: Ritual and Psychoanalysis Compared
Harriet Lutzky
Respondent: Diane Jonte-Pace

Theology and Mourning in Film: Loss and Redemption in the Cinema of Kristof Kieslowski
Mary Ellen Ross
Respondent: William Parsons


Silence, Mourning and Testimony in the Era of AIDS/HIV
Susan E. Henking
Respondent: Harriet Lutzky

Nostalgia and the Disenchantment with Modernity: Memory Books as an Adaptive Response to Shoah
Bertram J. Cohler
Respondent: Peter Homans

Closing Remarks 
Susan E. Henking and William Parsons