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Nineteenth Century Theology Unit

Call for Proposals

  • Women Shaping Theology and Religion in the 19th-Century
    We are seeking paper proposals on the following themes:
    (1) Women's role in the development of the domains of theology and religion in the 19th century and how each has come to be conceived;
    (2) How recognizing women's contributions to theological/religious discourse when these occurred outside the formal theological discipline, e.g., in literary works, makes us rethink cultural categories and disciplinary boundaries;
    (3) Women whose contributions to or critiques of 19th century theology/religion have been insufficiently acknowledged;
    (4) Reconceiving the canon of 19th-century religious thinkers in the light of the participation of women; and
    (5) since we are in Boston, papers treating Margaret Fuller or New England women are particularly welcome.

  • Academic Rivalry in the Modern Age: Thinking with Girard and Beyond
    For a joint session with the Colloquium on Violence & Religion, we invite proposals that explore academic rivalries in the nineteenth century. Almost no leading figure in the period was free from the entanglements of academic rivalry. Various social and political factors, e.g. war, territorial realignment, nationalism, the proliferation of learned journals, the restructuring of universities, and more, created a rich soil for rivalries to grow. The mimetic theory of René Girard offers an interesting interpretive lens for understanding rivalry. Girard not only identifies rivalry, but attempts to explain its roots through his mimetic theory: rivalry stems as much for similarity as from difference; if unchecked, it will escalate and often end in bloodshed. Proposals might:
    (1) Revisit famous academic disputes by attending to similarity and mirroring between disputants;
    (2) Analyze failed mentor-student relationships through a mimetic lens;
    (3) Excavate forgotten rivalries; or
    (4) Assess Girard’s theological readings of rivalries in his final book, Battling to the End (2009), among others.

We plan to convene a pre-arranged Author Meets Critics panel on Elizabeth A. Clark's latest groundbreaking book: The Fathers Refounded: Protestant Liberalism, Roman Catholic Modernism, and the Teaching of Ancient Christianity in Early Twentieth-Century America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019).

Statement of Purpose

Our Unit focuses on major themes, thinkers, and movements in nineteenth century religious thought and theology — from the French Revolution to World War I — and on the relation of religious thought to its historical, political, and cultural contexts. Each year the Unit selects two or three focused topics and predistributes papers before the AAR sessions.


Steering Committee Members




We ask that all accepted papers be submitted to the AAR's Full-Paper Submission program by November 1. We have found that pre-circulated papers improve the quality of our sessions. Our regular attendees expect to read the papers before the meeting. Presenters will give 20-minute summaries of their papers during their session.

Review Process

Proposer names are visible to chairs but anonymous to steering committee members

Review Process Comments

All paper proposals that we receive through the PAPERS system are ranked by steering committee members according to their merits in relation to the wording of our call for papers, and without the authors being identified. These rankings constitute one of several factors taken into consideration in determining the composition of our sessions. Others include thematic compatibility and potential for illuminating discussion of the papers selected, as well as diversity with respect both to ethnicity and gender, and to the career stages of scholars presenting at our sessions. This is a genuine working group with a long tradition of pre-distributing papers presented at our sessions to allow for the highest possible quality of discussion. In recent years, more often than not, those presenting at our sessions have done so for the first time. We actively seek the participation of scholars committed to the collaborative ethos of academic excellence that our group has historically sought to cultivate, and who are likely to keep the focus of our group attuned to cutting-edge research in the study of religion.