CFP: [Religion] Amnesty for the Damned: Origenâs Heresy of Universal Salvation in Literature

full name / name of organization: 
Marc Edward DiPaolo
contact email:

Does Virgil earn an escape from the circle of the virtuous pagans after
he helps Dante the Pilgrim achieve moral reform in The Divine Comedy?
What is the significance of the conflation of Hell and Purgatory in C.S.
Lewis’ The Great Divorce, and why are some lost souls ultimately able to
escape hell and enter Heaven? What does it mean in Milton’s Paradise
Lost when Satan learns that Hell was initially intended to be a temporary
disciplinary measure and not a permanent prison? In the film What Dreams
May Come, how is Robin Williams’ character able to rescue his wife’s soul
from Hell when such a rescue had never before been achieved? In the
Gospels of the New Testament of the Bible, how is Jesus’ liberal-minded
parable of the Prodigal Son reconciled with the darker theological
concept of hell?

I seek chapters for an interdisciplinary monograph that considers
literature’s engagement with the Christian question of eternal torment
for the damned in hell, and am particularly interested in instances in
which works of fiction posit the possibility that, even in the afterlife,
it is never too late for an evil soul to reform, or an unjustly damned
soul to be granted a reprieve. The anthology should cover a broad sweep
of time periods, cultures, and genres. The essays need not conform to
any particular Christian worldview, or be dogmatic in nature. Indeed,
deconstructionist approaches, psychoanalytic theory, feminist theory,
queer studies, and all other methodologies, especially those concerned
with representations of “the other” are eagerly solicited. Given the
supernatural nature of the topic, writers may indulge in some esoteric
thinking, provided that they assume that not all readers will share their
discipline and background, and the tools for the understanding of each
essay should be built into the body of the essay itself.

Possible topics include:

1) An examination of Origen’s life, religious beliefs, significance
in the history of the church, and the nature of his heresy of
Apocatastasis (see definition below). Possibly also Gregory of Nyssa...
2) A broad-but-graspable-and-substantive (!?!) history of the
reception of the heresy throughout Church history, from the early days of
the Church, through the Protestant Reformation, up to the present day.
3) Dante’s Virgil: Damned or Saved? (Suggested references: the
essays “Saving Virgil” by Ed King and “Sacrificing Virgil” by Mira
Gerhard from 2005’s Dante and the Unorthodox, Ed: James Miller.)
4) C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce.
5) Milton’s Satan as a test case, possibly compared with other
representations of the devil.
6) The Devil in Romanticism. Is Apocatastasis (def. below) even an
issue when the devil is presented as borderline heroic?
7) The Orpheus story after Christianity. Is it rewritten in
interesting ways that may be discussed here?
8) The Beauty and the Beast fairy tale and Marina Warner’s assertion
that it is one of the best examples of an Origen-like depiction of the
beast-like “other” figure. (see her 2001 NY Times editorial "Fantasy's
Power and Peril.")
9) Other authors that may or may not have relevance to the topic:
Nabokov, Greene, Beckett, and ... ?
10) The Devil and Daniel Webster
11) Faust
12) Are there Christian Ghost stories?
13) The graphic novels Swamp Thing: Love and Death and Sandman:
Season of Mists
14) The films Dogma, Bedazzled, and What Dreams May Come (as well as
the book WDMC by Richard Matheson).

Please send a CV, a three-paragraph summary of your intended topic
(including methodology, scope, and working thesis), contact information,
and other information you deem important.

Proposal Due Date: November 16, 2007

Apocatastasis: (Greek, apokatastasis; Latin, restitutio in pristinum
statum, restoration to the original condition). A name given in the
history of theology to the doctrine which teaches that a time will come
when all free creatures will share in the grace of salvation; in a
special way, the devils and lost souls. Associated with St. Gregory of
Nyssa and Origen. (Courtesy of the Catholic Encyclopedia.)

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Received on Sat Aug 11 2007 - 00:35:01 EDT

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