Literature and Life Writing

deadline for submissions: 
September 7, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Conference on Christianity and Literature, Midwest Region

Literature and Life Writing
Midwest Regional Meeting of the Conference on Christianity and Literature
October 23-24, 2023
Wheaton College 

This conference brings together scholars of Christianity and literature with contemporary writers of spiritual memoir to celebrate religious life writing and consider the forms, features, and thematic possibilities within the range of associated genres. How do literary works and forms shape portrayals of spiritual life? What might literature accomplish in the spiritual life within writer and reader? How might the literary space of religiously inflected life writing offer particular theological content? 

This conference will involve traditional panels, creative readings, and student panels, as well as a scholarly keynote. Attendees will also have the opportunity to attend readings and large public talks by several contemporary spiritual memoir writers, including Esau McCaulley, author of the forthcoming memoir How Far to the Promised Land? and Daniel Nayeri, award-winning author of Everything Sad is Untrue, who will be on campus that week

The scholarly keynote will be given by Jeffrey W. Barbeau (Ph.D., Marquette University), professor of theology at Wheaton College, editor of The Coleridge Bulletin, and a writer on British Romanticism, religion and literature, and the history of Christian thought. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including The Cambridge Companion to British Romanticism and Religion (2021) and Religion in Romantic England: An Anthology of Primary Sources (2018).

Possible topics include the following: 


  • problems in genre: spiritual memoir/spiritual autobiography/spiritual life writing 
  • periodization of religious life writing
  • traditions/inheritance in spiritual life writing 
  • trends in contemporary spiritual life writing
  • portrayal of the divine in spiritual life writing
  • children’s literature and/as spiritual life writing
  • confession, failure, hamartiology in spiritual life writing
  • social media (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Substack) and spiritual life writing
  • celebrity/publicity/the public square and spiritual life writing
  • race and spiritual life writing
  • the morphology of conversion (or deconversion) in spiritual life writing
  • private writings/unpublished autobiographical material
  • fictional spiritual life writing
  • politics of religious life writing
  • religious life writing as theory/theology
  • poetic genres and spiritual life writing
  • gender within spiritual life writing
  • literary epigraphs and allusions within spiritual life writing
  • biblical form and language in religious life writing
  • emplottedness within religious life writing
  • development and decline in religious life writing
  • “deconstruction” (or deconstruction!) and spiritual life writing
  • visions, transcendence, and the miraculous within spiritual life writing
  • sentiment and emotion in spiritual life writing
  • narratives of enslavement and/as spiritual life writing
  • rhetorics of spiritual autobiography
  • ethical pitfalls within spiritual life writing
  • portraying others’ lives/portraying one’s own life in spiritual life writing
  • the individual and the church/community of faith in spiritual life writing

As always, the Midwest CCL is open to other proposals concerning the relationship of Christianity and literature, including panel proposals.  Undergraduate students must submit their entire paper for consideration; eligible undergraduate papers will be entered into the national CCL Undergraduate Writing Contest for a cash prize and publication on the CCL website. 

Send abstracts (200-400 words) via email to by Sept. 7 2023. Panel proposals welcome.  Accepted abstracts/panels will be notified promptly. Participants in the conference must be members of the Conference on Christianity and Literature. Questions may be sent to