I’m heading to London today with two of my colleagues at ITIA (Institute of Theology, Imagination and the Arts) to present papers at The Hospitable Text: New Approaches to Religion and Literature. I have been looking forward to this conference for over a year. I’m really excited for keynotes from Archbishop Rowan Williams, Julia Reinhard Lupton (UC Irvine), and John Schad (Lancaster University). But there are other reasons why I think this is a significant conference, including who is backing conference and the way it’s going to operate.
This conference is particularly significant because it is backed by all three major journals in the interdisciplinary field of religion/theology and literature: Christianity and Literature, Literature and Theology, Religion and Literature. The Conference on Christianity and Literature at the University of Notre Dame and the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship are also sponsoring the conference. All in all, this is 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.
The Call for Papers explained the rationale for the theme and the unique format of the conference:
“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. 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.”
The seminars being offered are as follows:
- 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
The Organising committee–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 and the ease with which the process of submission, acceptance, and registration has been accomplished. I don’t think I’ve ever been this relaxed or prepared before heading to a conference. And that is exciting. I’ll be taking good notes, and in a future post, I look forward to offering my response and reflections on the conference.