CFP: [20th] CFP MLA 2008: âPost-Secular Europe?â (March 15, 2008)

full name / name of organization: 
May Mergenthaler
contact email: 

"Post-Secular Europe?": Religion and Faith in Contemporary Literature

In the decades after WWII, the ongoing process of secularization rapidly
progressed further in both Eastern and Western Europe. Since 1989, however,
there has apparently been a resurgence of religious beliefs and
spirituality, among the traditionally Christian, as well as Jewish and
Muslim populations. Other, non-European and non-traditional faiths,
especially Buddhism or so-called New Age movements, have also gained in
popularity, although organizations like Scientology have faced difficulties
in gaining official and popular recognition. This panel will explore how
contemporary literature
reflects on the recent revival of religious faith and spirituality in Europe.

Questions that papers might address include:

- Is the recent turn toward religion and spirituality in European
populations accompanied by the emergence of a "post-secular literature"? If
yes, how could "post-secular literature" be defined? How does it differ
from earlier models of writing that contain spiritual elements, i.e. from
Romantic and Neo-Romantic notions of art-as-religion or pre-Enlightenment
genres of spiritual or confessional literature?

- Is the new interest in faith and spirituality in Europe also accompanied
by a professedly "atheistic literature" that would parallel recent
criticisms of religion (i.e. Christopher Hitchen's "God is not Great")? Is
it possible to define "atheistic literature"?

- What kinds of literature and poetic language emerge in a turn towards
spiritual concerns? How do authors use or reflect on canonical religious
texts such as the Bible, the Talmud, and the Qur'an, or other traditions of
spiritual literature? (i.e. Barbara Honigmann's autobiographical writings,
Patrick Roth's neo-biblical narratives, Emine Sevgi Özdamar's
representation of praying)

- How do authors represent the contemporary encounters between different
faiths and religions in Europe?

- What specific issues are discussed in the literature of immigrants from
Muslim countries into traditionally Christian European populations, or in
the post-colonial literature from Muslim North African countries? Is there
a change in the religious attitudes of second- or third generation
immigrants or younger post-colonial

- How is the resurgence of Judaism in Europe represented in contemporary

- How have literary authors from the formerly Socialist Eastern European
countries discussed religion and faith since 1989?

- Have September 11, 2001 and its aftermath left any traces in contemporary
European literature with respect to the representation of faith and religion?

- Does a European equivalent exist for the "post-secular fiction" that John
A. McClure discovers in post-modern North-American literature (i.e.
Pynchon, Morrison, DeLillo)?

- What methods of literary or cultural criticism are adequate for the
exploration of religion and faith in contemporary literature? What
questions can or need to be asked?

Deadline: March 15, 2008

Please send 250-word abstracts to

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Received on Sat Feb 23 2008 - 18:10:37 EST