After the Catastrophe: Faith in Post-World War II British Literature

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA, April 12-15, 2018)
contact email: 


Scholarship on the crisis of faith in secular and religious institutions that characterized the literary response to the Great War remains a staple of academic discourse. Critics have less frequently studied the status of belief in post-World War II British literature (1945-1962). In 1940, George Orwell famously observed that the remarkable works about the Great War were written by soldiers who were its “victims.” The Second World War, however, demolished any distinction between combatant and noncombatants. As Marina Mackay points out, the conflict was half way over before British military casualties outnumbered civilian deaths, and by the war’s end more than fifty percent of buildings in greater London were damaged or in ruin. Yet, the war’s many catastrophes – the slaughter of civilians, the deployment of atomic bombs – resulted in a renewal of, and a challenge to, faith. For William Golding, Graham Greene, C. S. Lewis, Iris Murdoch, Kate O’Brien, and others, in the increasingly materialist culture of the welfare state that emerged after the breakup of the Empire, faith, its absence or its abuse, was a source of mystery, of authority, of acquiescence, and of group and individual identity. The title of this panel, may be interpreted in two ways: as an examination of belief in, or skepticism about, literature itself; or, as an inquiry into the nature and function of belief in the period’s imaginative works. Papers may address the uncanny, the supernatural, the apocalyptic, the mystical, or the transcendental.

Please submit 300 word abstracts alongside a short bio by September 30th through the NeMLA submission page: