Producing the Sacred: Exchanges between Sociology of Religion and Literature

deadline for submissions: 
September 21, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Annual convention of the American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA), Los Angeles, March 29-April 1, 2018
contact email:

Whereas religious study often dwells with the theological question of how the sacred has been revealed to humanity, sociologists of religion Emile Durkheim and Max Weber preferred to ask how the sacred is made and remade within a society. For them, human activity assumes a power sometimes attributed to supernatural forces: the power to produce the sacred.

Adapting Karl Marx’s famous statement about history, this seminar will investigate how people “make their own sacredness, but they do not make it entirely as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.” Like all work, the labor of propagating sacred values is not equally distributed. Segments of society produce the literary and theatrical works which play a part in formulating notions of the sacred for the whole.

In modern society, these artistic productions have often drawn upon religious symbols in order to redefine the sacred for an increasingly disenchanted world. How do these attempts to produce new sacred objects and values break from religious tradition and how might they still depend on traditional distinctions between sacred and profane, pure and impure, spiritual and material? What is the role of artistic work in producing or revealing the sacred for audiences in a secular age of consumption?

We welcome papers about:

• notions of the sacred and/or the profane in literature and society

• religious practice in works of art, literature and theater, both modern and premodern

• the influence that sociologists of religion (Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Mauss, the Collège de Sociologie, etc. AND contemporary scholars) have on literature or literary theory

• vice versa: the influence that literature and literary theory have on the sociological study of religion

• other topics at the intersection of religion and literature.


Please direct your questions to Kevin Lucas ( or Daniel Yu (