Friday, July 16, 2010

Cfp: "The Power of the Word: Poetry, Theology and Life," Heythrop College, University of London, June 17-18, 2011.

Religion has always been part of Western literary traditions. Many canonical literary texts engage extensively with theology and religious faith and practice, and theological and spiritual writers make liberal use of literary genres, tropes and strategies. Recent work in philosophy of religion, theology, the study of religions and literary criticism has once again brought to the fore issues which arise when literature, faith, theology and life meet, whether in harmony or in conflict. This international conference aims to: · foster a dialogue among scholars in theology, philosophy, spirituality and literature and between these and creative writers;
· discuss the ‘truth’ of poetry and the ‘truth’ of theology in relation to each other;
· reassess the idea of poetry as a criticism of life;
· discuss the relationship between faith, theology and the creative imagination through an examination of theoretical issues and the study of specific texts;
· examine the importance of poetry for personal and social identity, social cohesion and relations between faiths and cultures.

Keynote Speakers:

Professor Gianni Vattimo (University of Turin)
Professor Helen Wilcox (University of Bangor)
Professor M. Paul Gallagher (Gregorian University, Rome)
Professor Paul Fiddes (University of Oxford), tbc.

Other Invited Speakers:

Professor John Took (UCL),
Professor Jay Parini (Middlebury College, Vermont),
Olivier-Thomas Venard (Professor Ecole Biblique, Jerusalem),
Dr Antonio Spadaro (Gregorian University, Rome),
Dr Stefano Maria Casella (IULM University, Milan),
Dr Florian Mussgnug (UCL).

The organisers invite scholars currently working in the subject field to offer panel papers (30 minutes plus 10 minutes discussion) to address the following titles and themes.

Titles and themes of panels:

1. Why poetry matters:
· The activity of reading
· ‘Tolle, lege’: reading as transformative
· Poetry and the development of the reader
· The purpose and value of religious poetry
· Is religiously committed literary criticism possible, desirable, necessary?
· Specific writers and texts

2. Poetry, faith, religion and theology:
· Faith and the poet
· Poetry and poets in theological perspective
· Religious experience and the experience of poetry
· Devotional poetry
· What makes a work of poetry theologically or religiously significant or relevant?
· Metaphor, symbol, faith and theology
· Is the writer/poet as such theologically significant?
· Specific writers and texts

3. Poetry and the mystical:
· Relationships between mysticism and poetry
· Mystical poetry
· Poets as mystics, mystics as poets
· Specific writers and texts

4. Imagination, faith and theology:
· The place of imagination in religion, faith, theology, spirituality
· The ‘sacramental imagination’; poetry as sacramental
· Reason and imagination in faith and theology
· Theology, spirituality and the poetic imagination
· Specific writers and texts

5. Poetry and sacred texts:
· ‘Secular’ and ‘sacred’ poetic texts
· ‘Secular’ poetry and sacred texts
· Specific writers and texts

6. Poetry and society:
· Does poetry make anything happen?
· Poetry, literary criticism and ethics
· Poetry and politics
· Specific writers and texts

Please email abstracts of 500 words max. by Friday 14 October 2010 to: and

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