Literature and Secularization: At MLA and in Print



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by Everett Hamner

For any of you blog readers who might be at MLA (program is linked here) rather than AHA in a few days (gasp!), there's a session you won't want to miss. Several of the most provocative, insightful scholars at the intersection of religion and literature will be participating on a panel entitled "Literature and Secularization" (Friday, 3:30-4:45, WSCC 617). Facilitated by Susannah Brietz Monta (Notre Dame, and editor of Religion and Literature), this roundtable will feature Lori Branch (Iowa, author of Rituals of Spontaneity); John Cox (Hope College, Seeming Knowledge: Shakespeare and Skeptical Faith); Tracy Fessenden (Arizona State, Culture and Redemption); William Franke (Vanderbilt, Poetry and Apocalypse); Colin Lovell Jager (Rutgers, New Brunswick, The Book of God); and Michael W. Kaufmann (Temple, coordinator of recent Religion and Literature forum, "Locating the Postsecular").

While I'm in advertising mode, many of you--religious studies and history types included--might well enjoy Amy Hungerford's Postmodern Belief: American Literature and Religion Since 1960 (Princeton, 2010). I reviewed this for Religion and Literature recently (43.1, Spring 2011), and here's the opening paragraph:

At first glance, Amy Hungerford’s second book might seem literary criticism’s answer to Robert Wuthnow’s After Heaven: Spirituality in America Since the 1950s, which shows how Americans have drifted away from institutional religious commitments and toward more informal, syncretistic spiritualities. However, Hungerford reveals not just a loosening and recombination of doctrines and practices, but the return of a “belief in meaninglessness” (xiii) rooted in transcendentalism and Romanticism. Postmodern Belief is an examination of faith without content, trust in the nonsemantic, belief as itself a form of ritual, all as discerned primarily through the work of writers rarely identified as religious themselves, but who still “live in oblique relation to the structures and discourses of institutional religion” (xvi). Rather than concerning herself with these authors’ theologies, Hungerford investigates their convictions about literature. In fact, “their literary beliefs are ultimately best understood as a species of religious thought, and their literary practice as a species of religious practice” (xvi).

2 comments:

Per Smith at: December 29, 2011 at 8:32 AM said...

Does anyone have a link to an official program from MLA which has this information in it? I want to publicize it elsewhere but can't find anything official. Advance thanks.

Paul Harvey at: December 29, 2011 at 8:34 AM said...

linked now in the post.

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