Growing Younger: Southeast Regional Conference on Christianity and Literature

deadline for submissions: 
July 15, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
Conference on Christianity and Literature

“Growing Younger”: Literature and Childlike Faith

Southeast Regional Conference on Christianity and Literature Covenant College
Lookout Mountain, GA
October 10-12, 2024

Keynote Speaker: Malcolm Guite (Poet and President of the George MacDonald Society)

To commemorate the bicentenary of George MacDonald--the nineteenth-century Scottish novelist, fantasist, theologian, and poet--this conference welcomes papers pertaining to his life, work, and legacy. More broadly, we invite papers that explore motifs of childlikeness, particularly as they relate to faith and imagination. MacDonald’s children’s stories, such as The Princess and the Goblin, The Golden Key, and The Light Princess, remain a favorite with fantasy readers of all ages, and MacDonald insists that he writes not “for children, but for the childlike, whether of five, or fifty, or seventy-five.” In fact, his interest in childlikeness pervades his creative and theological output, resurfacing in his realistic fiction, essays, and elsewhere. Human hearts, he recommends, “should always be growing younger.”

The child is a complexly evocative figure in scripture, literature, and culture. Christ exhorts his disciples to become like little children, and scripture abounds with imagery of God’s people as beloved, obedient, and dependent children. Conversely, Proverbs recommends strategies for curbing childish folly, and Paul encourages the Corinthians to put aside childish ways. While literature sometimes romanticizes childhood as a time of innocence, imagination, and endless potential, it also depicts the vulnerability, waywardness, and ignorance of children. Bildungsromane focus on the transition from childhood to adulthood as both a linear and a recursive process. Young Adult fiction enjoys popularity among adult readers, but suffers criticism from the literary elite. Narratives of secularization often characterize dissociation from religion as a cultural coming of age, while postsecularity might be construed as a return to former openness. Humans, it seems, wrestle with simultaneous desires for maturity and for childlikeness, and such internal conflict constitutes a suggestive analogue to the interplay between doubt and faith. Literature offers a medium for this wrestling, as well as imaginative alternatives to the false dichotomy between maturity and childlikeness. We welcome papers and creative works that address any aspect of this conversation, with possible topics including, but not limited to:

  •  George MacDonald’s novels, fairy tales, poetry, sermons, essays, etc.

  •   MacDonald’s Romantic precursors, literary peers, or twentieth and twenty-first-century

    successors (for instance, the Inklings)

  •   Children’s literature and literary depictions of childhood

  •   The role of literature in child rearing, pedagogy, or spiritual formation

  •   Bildungsroman narratives

  •   Fantasy and mythopoesis

  •   Themes of rebirth and restoration

  •   Sacred, secular, and post-secular accounts of childhood and maturation

  •   Retrospective, recursive, or otherwise non-linear narratives

  •   The competition, coexistence, and/or conversation between faith and doubt

  •   The role of liturgy as return and renewal

  •   Recovery: literature that bestows fresh or clarified vision; literature that recovers lost or marginalized voices; literature that anticipates new creation

    Other proposals concerning the relationship of Christianity and literature, including panel proposals and creative works, are welcome. Presenters should be members of the Conference on Christianity and Literature by the time of the conference.

    Submit abstracts of 250-300 words by July 15, 2024, to Dr. Heather Hess, 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. Graduate students accepted to the conference are encouraged to apply for the CCL Conference Travel Grant.