"Cities of God" in Ethnic Literature: The Roles of Religious Communities (MELUS 2010; deadline 11 December 2009)

full name / name of organization: 
Steve Pearson, U of Tennessee / MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States

Papers are invited for a panel on the depiction of religious communities in ethnic U.S. literatures for the 2010 MELUS Conference at The University of Scranton (PA).

Borrowing Augustine's phrase "city of God" but broadening it beyond his Christian focus, this panel explores the ways in which ethnic American writers examine the role of religious communities from any religious tradition. For Augustine, the city of God is a distinct community within the larger geo-political community; he plays off the early church's sense that it was a place where warring social groups—including ethnic groups—would reconcile and live as equals. However, it is often said nowadays that in our culture, the most segregated part of the week is Sunday mornings; this sentiment suggests that religion often preserves ethnic and racial divisions instead of erasing them.

The panel will discuss the portrayal of religious communities by ethnic U.S. authors. Topics may include (but are not limited to):

  • How are these issues represented in our literatures?
  • What roles do religious communities play within the texts?
  • How are religious communities portrayed as either maintaining ethnic identity or as breaking down barriers between ethnic groups?
  • In what ways are these communities presented as distinct communities within the world—that is, as a third community between the minority and dominant communities?
  • When and how are minority religious communities presented as being at odds with the larger minority culture(s)?
  • How are non-minority religious communities presented as either aiding or obstructing the growth of individuals and/or the progress of civil rights?

Proposals may cover texts from any period. Presenters will need to be MELUS members by the time of the conference.

Please submit your 250-word proposal—along with any audio-visual needs—as an email (no attachments please) to Steve Pearson at aristophanes68@hotmail.com by Friday, 11 December, 2009.