Poetry and Religion: Figures of the Sacred

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Institut Catholique de Paris, April 1-2, 2011, International Conference

Deadline for proposals: December 1, 2010.

This conference will consider religious poetry in English from its origins to now, including poets such as anonymous Medieval poets, John Donne, George Herbert, John Milton, Gerard Manley Hopkins, T.S. Eliot, R.S. Thomas, Elizabeth Jennings, Geoffrey Hill, and others.
What links can one observe between poetry and religious texts? The poetic quality of sacred texts and the religiosity of certain poetic texts demonstrates an intersection of genres. Whether one takes up the via positiva or the via negativa, in both cases, one shall have to follow the paths of words opened by poets to reach to the divine. The point will be to examine how faith can influence the poetic aesthetic, which it illuminates or darkens. From these internal landscapes which leave the Word as final key for reading, it will be useful to discern contrasts between more or less Manichean visions of good and evil, while following, word by word, the scriptural pilgrimage that covers the degradation of virtue into vice or the progression of sin to redemption which art, in the image of religion, sometimes allows. The struggle between the sacred and the profane, will enable the reader to perceive all the aspirations of faith, while the poet, persuaded of his vocation just like any religious person, tries to carry out his or her task, whose ultimate goal is to come closer to the divine mystery which at times appears under the pen, and at others, seems infinitely remote.
- How does a poem best express belief?
- Must the reader of religious poetry be expected to suspend disbelief (as T.S. Eliot suggested) ?
- Can the borderline between faith and doubt be defined?
- What is the role of indirectly religious poetry?
- What is the relationship of religious poetry to the Psalms? to the Bible? to liturgical texts? to Mediaeval Passion plays?
- How "theological," "apologetic" or persuasive can a poem be?
- How does a poem draw the reader toward religious meditation?
- Which poems in English were influenced by other Christian classics such as Augustine, Dante, Eckhart, Loyola, Pascal, Renan, Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, or Péguy?
- Does the Christian poet seek to make religious belief part of the creative process, affecting concepts of poiesis and ekphrasis?
- How do religious poets use blasphemy? humour and irony? rhetoric? figures of speech?

Proposals for papers (approximately 300 words) should be accompanied by a short bio-bibliographical statement, and sent to all three members of the scientific committee before 1December 2010:
- Anita Higgie (ICP/CORPUS/CRPA)
- Jennifer Kilgore-Caradec (ICP/Université de Caen/LARCA)
- Cathy Parc (ICP)
Submission of written papers will be required 2 months after the conference, according to specifications given by the organizers to participants.