"Sincerity" -- *Deadline Extended* (July 10) -- Special Issue

deadline for submissions: 
July 10, 2016
full name / name of organization: 
Christianity & Literature
contact email: 

Special Issues - Christianity & Literature - "Sincerity" full name / name of organization: Christianity & Literature contact email: mjsmith@apu.edu 


Christianity & Literature
Two Special Issues:

Special Issue Editors: Matthew J. Smith and Caleb Spencer 

The journal Christianity & Literature seeks essay submissions for two companion special issues to be published on the topic of "Sincerity." These issues will explore the various ways that the history and thought of Christianity informs what we understand by sincerity. One issue will be devoted to literature written through the European Romantic movement, and the other to literature written since. 

Although Patricia Ball's 1964 article, "Sincerity: the Rise and Fall of a Critical Term," suggests that the interpretive force of "sincerity" had fallen, her essay marks a vital resurgence in academic interest in sincerity and authenticity. Ball responds primarily to sincerity's journey from Romanticism as part of the creative process, to Victorian thought and its deployment as a moral category, to modernism and its critical disambiguation. Since the 1960s, the question has received steady critical interest. Lionel Trilling's 1970 book, Sincerity and Authenticity, was followed by influential contributions to the topic by writers including Charles Taylor, Marshall Berman, Charles Lindholm, Stanley Cavell,  Elizabeth Markovits, and Jane Taylor. The focuses of these books range from Trilling's account of "authenticity's" departure from "sincerity" as it leaves behind the requirement of moral devotion, to R. Jay Magill's 2012 best-selling popular history whose title says it all: Sincerity: How a Moral Ideal Born Five Hundred Years Ago Inspired Religious Wars, Modern Art, Hipster Chic, and the Curious Notion That We ALL Have Something to Say (No Matter How Dull). Alongside other religions and institutions, Christianity plays a central role in these studies, often providing an imperative moral framework within which concepts of sincerity emerge or, alternatively, from which articulations of sincerity break. Christianity remains key to theorizing sincerity, not least, because the notions of selfhood, truth, representation, performance, and interiority that comprise "sincerity" and "authenticity" shift historically with movements in theology and religious practice. 

We welcome submissions on any topics that bring together literature broadly defined, sincerity or authenticity, and the history and thought of Christianity. Ideal essays are grounded in readings of a text(s) and also discuss how these readings advance or challenge scholarly paradigms for understanding sincerity. We particularly encourage submissions that engage emerging critical methodologies, such as affect studies, ecocriticism, historical phenomenology, postsecularism, the (post)human, biopolitics, and new materialism. 

Origin Stories: The History of Sincerity and Christianity in Premodern Literature 

Scholars seem to be preoccupied with the origins of modern sincerity. More than related topics like morality, representation, and subjectivity, sincerity and authenticity are tied in scholarly accounts to various emergence narratives. We frequently ask: what medieval scholastic idea, or early modern interrogation strategy, or humanist innovation planted the seed of modern notions of self-reflection and honest expression? Most major monographs on sincerity devote significant early sections to the question sincerity's provenance and to the early modern period in particular and then show how notions of self-truth and self-representation evolve through cultural shifts in science, religion, politics, and social fashion especially in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Yet few scholars have examined in detail the premodern history of sincerity in literature and drama. The several studies that do have proven rich in explicating the complexities of performance, representation, authorship, and genre as they manifest in aesthetic works—and also as these works reveal the unseen human and institutional forces that constrain "sincere" action. This ongoing conversation can benefit from a collection specifically focused on the relations between literature and Christianity in these periods. 

This issue invites submissions on the history of sincerity and Christianity from the late Medieval period through the Romantic period. Example topics include sincerity's literary history in:
• medieval voluntarism and scholastic thought
• the Protestant Reformation
• the middle class
• theater and performativity
• early representations of cultural and religious "others"
• the Protestant work "ethic"
• ecclesiastical change and church egalitarianism
• genre
• skepticism
• rhetoric
• forms of investigative terror
• Weber's thesis
• confession and profession
• religious conversion
• authorship and publishing
• secularization 

Sincerity and Beyond: from Romanticism to the Postmodern CFP 

The transition to modernity produces new material conditions that in turn complicate and produce increasing problems for sincerity, beginning with the growth of individualism, increased urbanization, changing democratic practices in Europe and its colonies, and alterations in the modes of production (increasingly robust print culture, mass production techniques, improved travel, etc.). Beginning with the transition to Romanticism in Continental Europe and England and ending with contemporary authors like David Foster Wallace and Ben Lerner, this issue will address the transformations and continuities in the idea of sincerity in cultural production while tracing its lineage in Christian theology, devotional practices, and affections. We seek articles that explain some the ways that sincerity continues to be deployed in the 19th and 20th century, demonstrating the continuities and discontinuities in these deployments and earlier Christian theological concerns. For example papers on Romantic, Victorian, Realist, or developments and deployments of earlier models of Christian sincerity would be welcome. Additionally we'd love to see papers that might engage with American pragmatism or continental Modernism as these movements seek to continue and transform earlier modes of sincerity while reciprocally engaging shifting religious discourses. Finally papers addressing the close of the 20th century with its post-9/11 "end of irony" would help to show where sincerity has come in the recent past. Indeed, the resurgence of discourses of personal freedom, especially related to identity performance and production in contemporary fiction, film, and even visual art, would seem to offer many possible avenues for analysis. 

Possible topics 

- Romantic confessions of sincerity
- Rousseau and the problem of sincerity and performance
- Sincerity and the Romantic self
- Victorian Sincerity
- Empire, Colonies, and Sincerity
- Naturalism and sincerity
- Technological Innovation and sincerity
- Realism, Representation, Documentary, and problems of sincerity
- American Pragmatism and the impossibility of insincerity
- Sincerity and Modernism
- Parody, Readymades, Sincerity
- Literary Theory and Sincerity
- Identity (sexual, race/culture, class), Performance, and Sincerity
- Sincerity, Parody, and Postmodern Irony
- The New Sincerity and the critique of Irony 

Submit essays of 6,000-9,000 words Matthew J. Smith and Caleb Spencer at cal@apu.edu by June 1, 2016. Please address questions to Matthew Smith (mjsmith@apu.edu) or Caleb Spencer (cspencer@apu.edu). Christianity & Literature is a peer-reviewed journal published by SAGE.