Illuminating Words, Transforming Beauty, Feb. 19-20, 2016

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2016 Midwest Conference on Christianity and Literature

Near the beginning of his breathtaking work in theological aesthetics, Hans Urs von Balthasar warns, "In a world that no longer has enough confidence in itself to affirm the beautiful, the proofs of the truth have lost their cogency." At a time when the world, and perhaps especially the Church, lacks such confidence, the illuminated Saint John's Bible stands as a remarkable, counter-cultural affirmation of what Pope Saint John Paul II describes as art's "unique capacity to take one or other facet of the [Gospel] message and translate it into colours, shapes and sounds which nourish the intuition of those who look or listen." In reviving a tradition of scriptural illumination that has been nearly absent for five hundred years, the Saint John's Bible seeks "to be a prophetic witness to the glory of the Word of God" as well as to "ignite the spiritual imagination of believers throughout the world." What makes the Saint John's Bible a work of art, according to the Pope's definition, is its ability to translate or, quite literally, transform "without emptying the message itself of its transcendent value and its aura of mystery."

In order to foster a conversation about how beauty can illuminate the Word and how words can be made illuminating, Spring Arbor University will be hosting a Heritage Edition of the Saint John's Bible during the 2015-2016 academic year. Inspired by the presence of this beautiful book, the Midwest Conference on Christianity and Literature invites presentations that explore the challenges and opportunities that beauty offers to our culture. In addition to literary scholars, we hope to draw artists and biblical scholars to contribute to our understanding of the way in which the Gospel is illuminated as it is mediated through particular forms. We welcome proposals for individual panel presentations, full panels, roundtable discussions, and poster sessions that address issues related to this theme. In addition to scholarly papers, we are also looking for artistic or creative presentations that reflect on the role of beauty in illuminating the Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Doctrine. Submissions by undergraduates will also be considered. Presentations might address one of the following topics:

• How textual illuminations influence our reading of Biblical stories
• The way ekphrastic art reveals new facets of meaning
• How artists, writers, or musicians imaginatively engage Biblical texts
• How Biblical texts portray art, artists, and artisans
• How a theme shifts when portrayed in different art forms
• How different literary forms—poetry, short stories, novels, essays—convey meaning differently
• The relationship between authors and illustrators or the work of author/illustrators (like William Blake)
• The relation between literacies: oral, textual, visual
• The changing nature of the book or the epistemology implicit in different textual forms
• Film or drama adaptations
• Considerations of David Bentley Hart's contention in The Beauty of the Infinite that beauty's mode of persuasion is fundamentally peaceful

The conference will be held at Spring Arbor University from February 19-20, 2016. The keynote speakers will be David Lyle Jeffrey and Father Michael Patella. For more information, go to:
Email 200 word proposals to by September 30, 2015.