The Religious Turn: Secular and Sacred Engagements in Literature and Theory

Western Regional Conference on Christianity and Literature

Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA

May 15-17, 2014

For the past decade or so, the academy has witnessed a turn to religion in literary studies, critical theory, and continental philosophy. Philosophers such as Alain Badiou, Giorgio Agamben, and Slavoj Žižek have initiated a Pauline revival; Radical Orthodox theologians have promoted Christianity as the only alternative to a disenchanted modernity; and various scholars have challenged the Enlightenment’s thesis of inevitable secularization, while revisiting Carl Schmitt’s political theologies of sovereignty and exception. To what extent has the religious turn led to increased interfaith dialogue in literature and theory? How do literary interpretation, biblical exegesis, and historical contextualization respond to these new theological overtures? Can a new epistemology that merges reason and revelation be constructed? How do the secular and the sacred interpenetrate in literature? This conference invites papers that address various literary periods and that consider topics related to secular/sacred intersections, political theology, and interfaith dialogue in literature and theory, including (but not limited to) the following:

• literature that blurs the secular/sacred dichotomy

• incarnational and sacramental readings

• contrapuntal reading

• post-secularism in literature and theory

• reconsiderations of the secularization thesis in literature and theory

• suspicion of the hermeneutics of suspicion                                     

• New Historicist and feminist responses to the religious turn          

• hermeneutics of hope, charity, or hospitality

• re-enchantment

• theological aesthetics

• theories of gift-giving and sacrifice

• Badiou’s concept of the Event (or his four truth procedures), as applied to literature

• alternatives to Schmitt’s political theology

We also welcome papers more broadly interested in the intersections of Christianity and literature, not just limited to the 20th- and 21st-century. Please e-mail one-page abstracts and session proposals byDecember 1, 2013to Dr. Kathryn Stelmach Artuso at <>. Undergraduate students must submit their entire paper for consideration. We also invite poets and fiction writers, who are interested in these themes, to submit their work. Creative writers, please e-mail manuscripts for 5-10-minute contributions to a Circle of Readings by December 1, 2013 to Dr. Randy VanderMey at <>.