Interdisciplinary Approaches to Spirituality in the Literatures of the English-Speaking World, 2009

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Interdisciplinary Approaches to Spirituality in the Literatures of the English-Speaking World
6-9 July 2009
Organising committee:  Franz Wöhrer (University of Vienna), John S. Bak

‘Interdisciplinary Approaches to Spirituality in the Literatures of the English-Speaking World’ was the fruit of collaboration between IDEA, the English Department of the University of Vienna and the Écritures research group at Metz University. The conference brought together over sixty participants from nearly thirty different countries. Religious historians, literary specialists, practitioners of cultural studies and linguists all examined the concept of spirituality in English texts from the Middle Ages to today. Countries represented included France, Holland, Wales, Turkey, Italy, England, Russia, Romania, Hungry, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Poland, Germany, Serbia, Austria, the United States, China, India, Australia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Japan, South Korea and Brazil.

The subjects discussed in the panel sessions included ‘The Creative Mind and Spiritual Experience’, ‘Sufi Mysticism, Hindu Mysticism and Anglophone Literature(s)’, ‘Postmodernist Approaches to Spirituality and (Pseudo-) Spiritual Literature’, ‘Spirituality, Society and Politics’, ‘Aboriginal / Native Spirituality’, ‘Spirituality in 18th-century English Religious Poetry’, ‘Spirituality in Modern British and Anglo-Irish Literature’, ‘Spirituality in 20th-century American Women Writers’ and ‘Spirituality in Contemporary Caribbean Literature and Culture’.

Three members of IDEA gave presentations as part of the conference: Nathalie Collé-Bak examined William Blake’s iconographic treatment of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, Monica Latham analysed ways in which the Bible has been repackaged and pastiched for 21st-century readers and Jean-Philippe Heberlé compared the rendering of the Book of Job in two English oratorios, Job (1892) by Hubert Parry and Job (1997) by Peter Maxwell Davies. Two colleagues from the University of Metz also presented their work at the conference: Brigitte Zaugg spoke on the subject of Ellen Glasgow’s unending spiritual quest for reconciliation to her reason-emotion dialectic and for answers to her ontological questions concerning the spiritual makeup of the universe and Kathie Birat spoke about syncretism and spirituality in contemporary Caribbean fiction.

The general theme of the event was one that opened particularly interesting avenues for interdisciplinary research, and the conference experience proved to be a deeply enriching one for all participants, whatever their personal religious beliefs.

Conference Programme

Conference Report (published in The Messenger, 18.2 [Nov. 2009]: 73-75)

A collection of peer-review and revised articles based on the presentations given at the conference will be published in 2011 with the University of Vienna Press.