This Unit seeks to engage the critical issues at the intersection of religion, literature, and the arts. We are concerned with both the aesthetic dimensions of religion and the religious dimensions of literature and the arts, including the visual, performative, written, and verbal arts. Approaches to these two avenues of concern are interdisciplinary and varied, including both traditional methodologies — theological, hermeneutical, and comparative approaches associated with the history of religions — and emerging methodologies, those that emerge from poststructuralism, studies in material culture, and cultural studies.
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Arts, Literature, and Religion Unit
Call for Proposals
The Arts, Literature and Religion Unit welcomes paper and panel proposals for the following themes. Please indicate to which of these themes you are responding. There will not be an open call for papers this year.
Arts and Poetics of Sacred Scriptures
This panel will focus on modern texts and works of art explicitly inspired by sacred scriptures. How and why do modern artists and writers recreate sacred scriptures? How do they reinstate, question, or renew the function of sacred scriptures? Are there specific imagery or motives from sacred scriptures that inspire artists and writers nowadays? We welcome papers examining all artistic and literary genres alongside sacred scriptures from all religious traditions.
Contact: Gloria Maité Hernández email@example.com
The rapid growth of “cli-fi” (climate fiction) in recent years represents an important literary effort to grapple with climate change and its many dimensions: social, political, religious, affective, etc. We invite papers that creatively explore intersections between religious studies and cli-fi. They might, for example, consider how religion, religious adaptation, and new religious movements are imagined in cli-fi. They might use categories from the study of religion (apocalypse, enlightenment, divine judgment, etc.) to critically analyze themes and narratives of cli-fi. They might also consider the ethical promises or perils of cli-fi.
Contact: Ryan Darr firstname.lastname@example.org
“Liberation” has come to mean freedom from oppression or dispossession by having theological works focus on a “preferential option for the poor.” Mysticism, on the other, has been related to altered states or the supernatural, as seen by the initiated in theological mysteries; it may also signal direct access to the divine without religious institutional interference. This panel will explore the artistic and literary venues that investigate the notion of “Liberation Mysticism.”
Contact: María Mercedes Carrión email@example.com
Modern Poetry and Religion
Modern poetry does not sum up the world in a neat line, but it elevates the ordinary to bring into light what lies hidden, sometimes in plain sight. Religion, too, like modern poetry, moves us to consider the ordinary. Still, modern poetry and religion are imagined in different spaces. We are keen on papers that engage modern poetry and religion using, but not limited to, themes of ordinary experiences, refuge, and crises.
Contact: Akhil Thomas: firstname.lastname@example.org
Narratives and Landmarks: Truth, Terror, and Myth
Recent debates concerning the true story of the Alamo reveal divergences in narratives on architecture and land in relation to human bodies, racial and cultural dominance. Historical landmarks have long been symbols of myths, pride, dominance, war, terror, and identity. Inspired by (but not exclusively about) The Alamo building in San Antonio, this panel will include papers that examine spiritual and religious themes interacting with oppression, land, architecture, nature, human bodies, gender, race, and sexuality. Papers may examine non-fictional and fictional works of folklore, literature, and visual arts.
Contact: Olufemi Gonsalves email@example.com
New Approaches to Method and Theory in the Aesthetics of Religion
We are interested in paper or panel proposals that address intersections of the aesthetic approach to religion, art and ritual with actor-network-theory, material religion, and new ontology or discuss topical issues on simulation, disguise, and mimesis in play and ritual.
Religion, Music, and Text (cosponsored with the Music and Religion Unit)
Music plays an integral part in religious rituals and performances. It facilitates the religious experience of those performing and participating in the ritual. However, this music is written and composed based on religious texts and informs the music and/or performance. This panel will explore the theme of religion and music, musical texts and performance, and its representation in artistic and literary forms.
Contact: Arts, Literature, and Religion Chairs: Gloria Maité Hernández firstname.lastname@example.org, George Pati George.email@example.com
Religious Landscapes (cosponsored with the Space, Place, and Religion Unit)
Religious or sacred landscapes have historically signified specific ways of representing place. They serve as sources of cultural memory, ethical action, and social change. Religious landscapes are sustained or contested through rituals, pilgrimages, and festivals. Representations of these landscapes are preserved in museums, memorial sites, art, and literature. This panel will investigate the theme of religious landscapes in various artistic and literary forms from any time period and geographical location. Thematic approaches to this topic might include contested landscapes; pilgrimage and the movement of bodies through space; the sacralization and de-sacralization of the landscape; myth and imagined landscapes; or religious landscapes and environmental ethics.
Contact: Adam Newman firstname.lastname@example.org
Ritual and Theater
The connection between ritual and theatre has been studied by many, as well as denied by many. Yet, while not all theatre is derived from ritual, it can have ritual-like qualities, and ritual can be theatrical. This panel welcomes papers on any aspect of the relationship between ritual and theatre, including dance, pageants, and music, as well as scripted plays and liturgies. This panel seeks to engage mainly (not exclusively) those dealing with theater and dance performance. Contact: Cia Sautter email@example.com
Teach This Image (co-sponsored with the Religion in Premodern Europe and Mediterranean Unit)
This session will be oriented towards how we use images and material objects in pedagogy. Contributors would pick an image (or crafted piece of any kind - liturgical implement, garment, mask, sculpture, relief, amulet, architectural site or feature), that has been useful in teaching and examine or describe its pedagogical use and what the object has been fruitful to illuminate. The images should be selected from things easily available since the session is envisioned as a way of sharing resources. To include more papers we request shorter talks (8-12 minutes). Contact: Claire L. Fanger firstname.lastname@example.org
The labor of our hands
The presidential theme for 2023 AAR is La Labor de Nuestras Mano (The work of our hands). Works of our hands can broadly mean works of scholars of religion and theologians and artists and writers whose labor embody religion and theology. We invite scholars and artists to submit papers or panel proposals that examine this theme from various perspectives.
Contact: George Pati email@example.com
Statement of Purpose
Steering Committee Members
Ossama Abdelgawwad, Valparaiso University1/1/2022 - 12/31/2027
María Carrión, Emory University1/1/2023 - 12/31/2028
María Carrión, Emory University1/1/2022 - 12/31/2027
M. Cooper Harriss, Indiana University, Bloomington1/1/2021 - 12/31/2026
Adam Newman, University of Illinois1/1/2022 - 12/31/2027
Cia Sautter, University of Saint Thomas, Minnesota1/1/2022 - 12/31/2027
Akhil Thomas, Harvard University1/1/2023 - 12/31/2028