« Transdisciplinary Approaches to Spirituality in the Arts and Sciences : theorizing the spiritual » 9-11 June 2011 in Nice, Fr

full name / name of organization: 
ACE (Rennes 2 University) and CTEL (Nice University)

Argument :

Having declared a few months earlier : "For fifty years psychology has been reintegrating the demons in Mankind. This is the ultimate legacy of psychoanalysis. I think that the next century's task, facing the most terrible menace that humanity has known, will be to reintroduce the gods", Malraux added : "the greatest problem with the end of this century will be the religious problem – in as radically different a shape from the one we know, as Christianity was from ancient religions" (quoted by Frédéric Lenoir, Le Monde des religions, September-October 2005).

Jean Vernette, in the title to his study of the return of the spiritual in today's world, The 21st century shall be mystical or shall not be, gives an adaptation of the famous quote wrongly attributed to Malraux, who did apparently however really predict "the possibility of a spiritual event on a planetary scale" (Le Point, 10 November 1975).

More than confirmed by the numerous forms of spirituality that have emerged in the last 40 years and by the reinforcement of religious fundamentalism, the importance of this question remains strangely ignored in academic circles, particularly in France, on account of its lack of scientific character. This has created some paradoxical situations such as celebrated "believer" and philosopher Paul Ricoeur's insistance on asserting that his philosophy and faith are two utterly different things (quoted by J. Sys in "Ricœur : Thinking Biblically or Penser la Bible", The Sacred and the Profane, J. Keuss dir., Ashgate, 2003). Another surprising paradox is for specialists of the equally well-known comparative theorist of the Bible and literature Northrop Frye to discover in amazement the latter's equation between the imaginative and the spiritual in his last book entitled The Double Vision (1991) (cf. Alvin A. Lee, "Sacred and Secular Scripture(s) in the thought of Northrop Frye", Frye and the Word, Donaldson and Mendelson (eds.), University of Toronto Press, 2004).

On the other hand, a great many publications suggest that it has become necessary to go beyond the usual conflicts between science and religious belief, between the sacred and the profane (The Sacred and the Profane, J. Keuss dir., 2003), relying on a very postmodern questioning streak regarding western traditionally dualistic views. Opposing Jacques Monod's assertion that we are merely "packs of neurons lost in the indifferent immensity of the universe" (Le hasard et la nécessité, 1970), Jean Staune, in his brilliant book entitled Notre Existence a-t-elle un sens ? (2007) predicts an imminent upheaval of our paradigms which, more specifically under the impulse of quantum physics and the theories of relativity, will reintroduce Man, Being and his participation in "something that far surpasses him and has meaning" into the very heart of the sciences.

In response to this critical opening, research teams from the University of Rennes and the University of Nice are convening an international conference on the theme of "Transdisciplinary Approaches to Spirituality in the Arts and Sciences". The purpose of this conference is an attempt to define theoretical tools allowing the study of spirituality in literature, the arts and sciences. As the conference's goal is to develop critical tools emanating from a transdisciplinary approach to spirituality (to be distinguished from religion), it is open to specialists of mathematics, physics and astrophysics, medicine, neurology, anthropology, psychotherapy, philosophy and theology, wishing to debate the theoretical importance and consequences of the reintroduction of spirituality in their fields of expertise. The conference also reaches out for researchers in the literature and the arts of the English speaking world, where there have emerged a number of new voices belonging to cultural traditions with strong spiritual roots that have survived in our lay western societies, where loss of meaning often masquerades as postmodern innovation.

Themes for study

Ø Contemporary approaches to the notions of "real", "reality" and "being"
Ø Consciousness and matter ; body and soul ; dualism : new stakes
Ø Individual unconscious/ collective unconscious / soul : towards a new paradigm?
Ø Contemporary definitions of the sacred and the profane
Ø Bible, theology and literature
Ø Religion and spirituality
Ø Postmodernism and spirituality
Ø Contemporary forms of spirituality in the literature and the arts ; "hybrid" cultures and spirituality ; expressions of spirituality in "ethnic" literatures
Ø New approaches to spirituality in the sciences : anthropology, astrophysics, quantum physics, mathematics, medicine, neurology, philosophy, psychotherapy, etc.

This international conference is jointly organized by the two research centers ACE (Anglophonie : Communautés, Ecritures) from the University of Rennes 2 and the CTEL (Centre Transdisciplinaire d'Epistémologie de la Littérature) from the University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis. It will take place from Thursday 9 June to Saturday 11 June 2011 in the Centre Universitaire Méditerranéen of Nice. A selection of papers is planned to be published.

Paper proposals (1500 strokes maximum), along with a short biography and bibliography, should be emailed by 15 October 2010 to Claude Le Fustec (claude.le-fustec@orange.fr), Françoise Storey and Jeff Storey (fstorey@polytech.unice.fr).

Papers in English or French only.