ACLA 2016 Seminar on Poetry and Forgiveness

full name / name of organization: 
Thomas Berenato
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Please consider proposing a paper to the ACLA 2016 seminar on poetry and forgiveness.

See details below and at

Seminar: Poetry and Forgiveness

Meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association

Harvard U., Cambridge, MA, 17-20 March, 2016

Abstracts due 23 September, midnight PST; submit through the ACLA online portal:

Organizer: Thomas Berenato, University of Virginia (
Co-Organizer: Kathleen Henderson Staudt, Wesley Theological Seminary and Virginia Theological Seminary
Co-Organizer: Paul Robichaud, Albertus Magnus College

W. H. Auden: "Every beautiful poem presents an analogy to the forgiveness of sins." Geoffrey Hill: "the technical perfecting of a poem is an act of atonement, in the radical etymological sense—an act of at-one-ment, a setting at one, a bringing into concord, a reconciling, a uniting in harmony." Seamus Heaney: "poetic imagination seeks to redress whatever is wrong or exacerbating in the prevailing conditions."

Modern and post-modern poetics have long struggled to define the relationship of poetry to ethically challenging situations and actions, often framing this relationship in terms of religion, theology, politics, or the broader humanist tradition. This panel seeks to renew and refine the discussion. In what sense can we speak of art in terms of "forgiveness" today? Why does Auden raise the specter of forgiveness only to resort to its "analogy"? Is it more appropriate to talk instead, as some do, of "reconciliation," "atonement," "redress," "pardon"? And while we're at it, how about the poem as "retribution"—or "redemption"?

We welcome abstracts on poetry and poetics of any period and language. Modern thinkers we might bring to bear on the conversation include: Nietzsche, Benjamin, Adorno, Arendt, Heidegger, Ricoeur, Jankélévitch, Améry, Derrida, Wolterstorff, Nussbaum, Volf.