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Power of the Word International Conference VI: 1 - 4 July 2020, The Loyola Institute, Trinity College Dublin Ireland

The Call of Literature: Theology, Philosophy and Literature in Conversation

The Conference will also include a poetry-reading event with Prof. Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin,the current Ireland Professor of Poetry.

The sixth Power of the Word Conference will explore aspects of the ‘call of literature’, for authors and audiences alike.

How do writers and critics understand it? What does it mean to speak of a ‘vocation’ to write and what have theologians and philosophers got to say on the matter? In what sense can we speak of readers being called to literature?

However we might resolve these questions, we are still left with a profound problem. Is the spirit of literature necessarily an ‘angel of light’? Or does the call of literature sometimes prove to be a siren song?

Reading is ‘dangerous’, wrote Marcel Proust, when, ‘rather than waking us to the inner life of our soul, it tends to take its place’ (Sur la lecture,1906).The many different ways that we experience literature, as authors or readers, invite questions about discernment, authenticity, truth, beauty and much else besides.

The conference aims to explore, without geographical or chronological restrictions, the ‘call of literature’, the problems of discernment that it introduces for literary authors and their readers, and philosophers’, theologians’ and critics’ recourse to the literary.


Deadline for call for papers is 1st December 2019.

We are inviting proposals of individual papers from established scholars, creative writers and research students in the fields of literature, theology, philosophy and comparative studies.

For the first time we are also inviting proposals for panels of up to four scholars.

Papers addressing one or more of the following topics, whether from a theoretical viewpoint or in relation to specific writers or texts, are welcome:

  • The call of literature, its nature, significance and distinctiveness – theologically, philosophically or literarily
  • The call of literature as experienced by fiction writers and poets
  • Philosophers and theologians favourable or unfavourable towards poetry and fiction
  • Theology and philosophy in works of fiction
  • Theologians as poets and fiction writers
  • Philosophers as poets and fiction writers
  • 'What is a classic?' (T.S. Eliot, 1944)
  • Didactic poetry: its appeal or lack of it, past or present
  • Sacred scriptures as literature
  • Poetry and fiction as ‘secular’ scriptures
  • The call to read as a call to change: issues around transformative reading and ethical and religious discernment
  • The dangers of reading: accepting and rejecting them
  • What is the ‘truth’ of literature, whether fiction or poetry?
  • ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’: is that all we know and all we need to know?
  • The list, however, is by no means exclusive.

    The language of the conference will be English.

    If you wish to be considered for a presentation (20 minutes), please submit an abstract of no more than 250 words and the presentation's working title, together with a brief curriculum vitae.