Diviners and Doomsdayers: The Poet as Prophet (ALA American Poetry Symposium 2020)

deadline for submissions: 
November 4, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
American Religion and Literature Society
contact email: 

Diviners and Doomsdayers: The Poet as Prophet

Prophecy and poetry share a long history in American literature. Since Emerson argued for poets as America’s sacred seers, the term “prophet” has been variously applied in criticism of American poetry, to suggest poets who have startling foresight (for example, Robinson Jeffers or W.S. Merwin); to highlight social and political investments (in Muriel Rukeyser or Adrienne Rich); to align human utterances with divinely inspired truths (in Allen Ginsberg or Nathaniel Mackey); or to suggest a trans-historical lineage of prophet-poets, from Jeremiah to Blake to Whitman and beyond.

What happens if we approach the prophet-poet through a postsecular lens? In what ways can we rewrite, or reimagine, the category of American prophetic poetry? What function might prophecy serve in contemporary literature, and why might American poets be attracted to it? Can prophetic poetry help us imagine a better future or change the way we live in the present? How might scholarly work on prophecy within the fields of philosophy, theology, and cultural studies be put into closer conversation with poetics?

This panel welcomes submissions that examine the intersection of prophecy and poetry in any period of American history, and from any religious tradition. Papers that engage race (including Black and Hispanic liberation theologies), feminism, queer theory, or ecocriticism are especially encouraged.

Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words to Sara Judy (sjudy@nd.edu), by November 4, 2019. This panel is affiliated with the American Religion and Literature Society, and will take place at the 2020 ALA Symposium on American Poetry (https://americanliteratureassociation.org/ala-conferences/ala-symposia/american-poetry/)