Hospitable London – Hospitable Texts: New Approaches to Religion and Literature

by Anna Blanch on July 13, 2011

I’m heading to London today with two of my ITIA (Institute of Theology, Imagination and the Arts) colleagues to present papers at The Hospitable Text: New Approaches to Religion and Literature. Though the conference is taking place from the 14-16 July 2011, because of train timetabling and the 6 hour train trip from Scotland to London, my Transpositions colleague and friend, Jenn Craft and I will be heading down today.

This is a conference I have been looking forward to this conference for over a year! Actually, since even before I posted the Call for Papers way back in June 2010. With keynotes from no lesser lights than Archbishop Rowan Williams, and opportunities to see Prof. Stephen Prickett, and Drs Susan Colon, and Lynne Hinojosa from my time at Baylor, i’m really looking forward to it. Plenary lecturers will also include Julia Reinhard Lupton (UC Irvine), Paul Contino (Pepperdine University), and John Schad (Lancaster University) which is sure to make things interesting. But there are a couple of other reasons why I think this is a significant conference: those behind the conference and the way it’s going to operate.

What is particularly significant about this conference is that is being backed by all three of the major journals in the interdisciplinary field of religion/theology and literature: Christianity and Literature, Literature and Theology, Religion and Literature. The conference is also sponsored by the Conference on Christianity and Literature, the University of Notre Dame, and the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship. All in all, quite an achievement and one of the main reasons why this conference is being heralded as a milestone, and will hopefully herald a watershed, in the development of Religion and Literature as a field of research.

It can be very easy to forget that Religion and Literature has really only been discussed as a discrete field for the last 30 years or so. Don’t get me wrong, in practice critics were exploring the theological and religious themes of works pretty much, well, since always. What has changed is the self-reflexivity. There’s some good in reflecting on the why and the how and the practice of interdisciplinary literary criticism. But it can also turn into naval gazing, so we shall see what will come out of it.

The theme of our conference is ‘The Hospitable Text’. Contemporary theorists and theologians have paid considerable attention recently to the idea of hospitality, recognising, among other things, the value of actively hosting viewpoints different from our own rather than merely tolerating their presence. (Call for Papers)

One of the distinctive features of the conference will be sessions devoted to seminars. Running concurrently and led by the people listed below, each seminar will focus on a discussion between the moderator and six-eight people who register in advance and circulate pre-written papers to the other seminar participants before the conference begins. Other attendees at the conference will be invited to audit these seminars.(Call for Papers)

These seminars are in addition to the usual 3 paper sessions at literature conferences. The seminars being offered at Hospitable Texts are:

Literature, Religion and Place
Shakespeare and Faith
Religion, Literature and Theory
American Literature: Religion, Pluralism, Secularism
The Bible and its Literary Afterlife
Poetry and Forgiveness

I will be participating in the seminar on Religion, Literature and Theory having had a paper on the topic of Poetry and Belief, as it applies to Nesbit, accepted. I will share more about that paper and the process of the seminars in a different post. What i will say now is this: already, even before the conference the seminar idea is growing on me. My paper has been done for months. I was able to do extra reading to prepare for the conference and I’ll go in knowing something more than the names and paper titles (which sometimes you don’t even know) of the other participants in my seminar.

The Organising committee of Susan Felch (Calvin College), Emily Griesinger (Azusa Pacific University) Mark Knight (Roehampton University), Emma Mason (Warwick University), and Susannah Monta (University of Notre Dame) are to be commended for their communication prior to the event, the ease with which the process of submission, acceptance, registration etc has been. I don’t think i’ve been this relaxed or prepared heading to a conference ever. And that is exciting.

I want to promise that i’ll try to liveblog (or even live tweet..) but as i have no idea what the internet connectivity is like I really cannot make that promise. I’ll see what i can do though.

 

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