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CFP: Religion, Literature, and the Arts Conference

Ninth Religion, Literature, and the Arts Conference
Sacrifice, Terror, and the Good
September 26‐28, 2013
University of Iowa, Iowa City IA

The 2013 Religion, Literature and the Arts conference at the University of Iowa will focus on the relationships between terror, sacrifice, and the good. If one of the chief functions of the humanities is to encourage us to think reflectively about what we take to be the highest good, sometimes the task of the humanities scholar must be one of recovery, and sometimes one of critique. Rather than leaping to the defense of the pure virtue of the good, the conference pauses to reflect on its terrifying aspects and how it may compel us to sacrifice even that which is dear to us. Working across time and place, we want to build an understanding of how sacrifice works to alleviate or induce terror, and the role of the good in this process.

We invite papers focused on one of these three key terms, as well as papers that conceptualize how these terms might relate to one another. The conference is hosted by the University of Iowa’s Department of Religious Studies, and so we welcome contributions working with both classic and contemporary theories of sacrifice, penitence, and trembling before the divine—Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Rudolf Otto, Georges Bataille, Rene Girard, Walter Burkert, Slavoj Zizek, Talal Asad, to name but a few examples. But we are equally interested in papers and presentations that cut across disciplinary boundaries and address the broad themes of the conference from other vantage points, working with texts and non‐textual artifacts alike. As a starting point, the following kinds of questions might be considered:

  • Does terror have its ethical or political virtues? Is there an aesthetics of terror? How is the experience of terror represented in literature and the arts, and to what end? Is terror induced by the call for sacrifice, or does it justify the call for sacrifice?
  • How did ancient or antiquated rituals of sacrifice operate? How are they taken up and reenacted in contemporary cultures, by artists, creators, and consumers?
  • Does pursuit of the good always demand sacrifice? In a time of abundance, are we still called upon to sacrifice? What is the value (ethical or aesthetic) of choosing a good that does require sacrifice? In what contexts is goodness experienced as something to be feared? Is the good an inherently terrifying subject, or an inherently dull one?

In thinking about developing a proposal, it might be helpful to consider the following three broad headings under which accepted papers will be organized:

Constructive Diagnoses
This track invites papers using philosophy, theology, psychoanalytic theory, political theory, and/or literary theory to define, diagnose, and perhaps undermine what given cultures define as the good. For example, papers might develop a phenomenology of terror, deconstruct the practice of sacrifice, or explore how the divine or the demonic function as manifestations of the good.

Cultural Manifestations
This track invites papers that explore the agony, ecstasy, or monotony of sacrifice within a given culture, society, community, or ritual setting, from a variety of methodological perspectives and in a variety of contexts. Examinations of specific historical events or material artifacts, investigations of the ways sacrifice has been represented in literature and the arts, and inquiries into specific rituals of sacrifice are all equally welcome.

Creative Interpretations
This track invites creative work that touch in some way on the themes of sacrifice, terror, and the good—fiction, creative non‐fiction, poetry, paintings, music, film, and/or dance. Where appropriate, the abstract in this case might take the form of an artist’s statement explaining how the work speaks to the themes of the conference.

Submission of Abstracts
Please submit abstracts of no more than 350 words, along with a working title for your paper, your name, institutional affiliation, and email address to the RLA working group at religion‐rla@uiowa.edu. The deadline for submissions is April 30, 2013.

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