CFP: [Religion] Conversion in Early Modern Art and Literature

full name / name of organization: 
Lieke Stelling
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Intersections: Yearbook for Early Modern Studies (Brill, Leiden, The

Call for Papers for Volume 22

The Turn of the Soul:
Representations of Religious Conversion in Early Modern Art and Literature

Although conversion has always featured prominently in Christianity, the
religious upheavals of the early modern period gave the idea an
unprecedented urgency. The European colonial expansion into Africa, Asia
and the New World created an industry for the training of missionaries
with a central focus given to methods of conversion. The Ottoman colonial
expansion, on the other hand, made Europe feel the threat of Islam,
something that was personified in the considerable numbers of
Christians “turning Turk.” The period of the Reformation, during which
the population of entire states were required to adopt the religion chosen
by their prince, also raised important questions about the process of
conversion. These diverse circumstances led to a reconsideration of the
meanings of conversion, as well as corollary issues such as its agency,
(social) consequences and the nature of the internal spiritual processes.
Poets, playwrights and artists often reflected on these issues and it is
through their textual and visual renderings that we can explore
contemporary cultural ideas about the complex nature of religious

The volume in preparation aims to examine the rhetoric and aesthetic
experiences of conversion in texts and the visual arts. The editors
welcome contributions in English from multiple disciplines (literature,
history, art history, language studies, etc.) that address the theme in a
wide-range of geographical regions Topics may include:

1. Agents of Conversion: Is conversion the work of God or of
individuals themselves? What is the role of vision (or blindness) in this
process? What is the role of free will? The church? How do images, texts,
plays, etc. function as vehicles for conversion?

2. Authentication of Conversion: How exactly do converts differ from
their former selves? Is this described in terms of sinfulness versus
holiness or ignorance versus wisdom? Is it a radical transformation,
gradual development, a reformation or a restoration? How can the genuine
spirit of conversion be tested?

3. Representations of Conversion: Are representations of conversion
instruments of propaganda? Or, are they a medium of (autobiographical)
expression and reflection? Could the expressive character of a painting or
play itself cultivate a sensory experience for the viewer that enacts

Selected authors will be invited to participate in a panel on the topic of
religious conversion, to be proposed for the Renaissance Society of
America conference in 2010 in Venice. The final collection of essays will
appear in 2011. The editors are Harald Hendrix, Todd Richardson and Lieke
Stelling. Proposals (300 words) for contributions should be sent
electronically no later than January 1st 2009 to:

Harald Hendrix (Utrecht University),
Todd Richardson (University of Memphis),
Lieke Stelling (Leiden University),

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