The College Theology Society

 Serving Church and Academy Since 1954

The Arts, Media, Literature, and Religion

Charles Gillespie, Sacred Heart University (CT)

The Arts, Literature, Media, and Religion section of the College Theology Society cordially invites proposals for papers, presentations, provocations, projects, performances, and panels for the 2020 convention. The conference theme, “Human Families: Identities, Relationships, Responsibilities” connects to innumerable examples for our section, from depictions of the Holy Family in ecclesiastical art to the framing of a Modern Family in television sitcoms. The section is particularly interested in proposals that address the ways various arts, literatures, media, and religious aesthetics shape, occasion, and challenge our reflection on human families through direct engagement with artifacts (e.g., books, films, visual art, music). The section also welcomes proposals that approach the arts, media, and literature from more systematic, historical, or practical perspectives on theological aesthetics.

Some themes to jumpstart your thinking include, but are by no means limited to,

  • What role does artistic, literary, and media depictions of human families play in our understanding of family identities, relationships, and responsibilities?
  • How do artistic, literary, and media sources expand, confirm, challenge, resituate, or restrict notions about “human families”?
  • How does religious iconography influence our understanding of human families in scripture and theological tradition? Do theologies about human families change when in the company of certain kinds of art, literature, or media?
  • How does popular culture envision human families? How could narratives about the family that are part of the cultural imaginary bear theological weight?
  • Why are families so consistently interesting for artists, writers, and media pundits? Are there religious or theological reasons for this fascination?
  • How might fiction influence our speculations about human families of the future or of the past?
  • Do artistic, literary, or media depictions of a human family need to be human at all? What about artistic and literary depictions of the family in the context of church teaching or church tradition?
  • How do photographs, family portraits, and memorials connect human families across time, space, memory, culture, and/or prayer?
  • A long-running television program includes the phrase “but where are those good old-fashioned values on which we used to rely? Lucky there’s a family guy!” in its theme song. How does the media construct, exploit, complicate, and trade on religious perceptions of so-called “family values”?
  • Are “family resemblances” significant for theological or ethical reflection?
  • How does artistry and creativity (in its various forms) factor into the identity, relationships, and responsibility of human families?
  • Does the proliferation of family-based content on social media influence the identities, relationships, or responsibilities of human families?
  • Should fandoms be considered examples of human families?
  • In what contexts are family stories also religious stories?
  • How do beloved artworks, stories, films, objects, musicals, poems, plays, and songs play a role in the lived experience of human families?

In addition to proposals for traditional conference papers, the Arts, Literature, Media, and Religion section also welcomes non-traditional submissions in the form of proposals for alternative formats including, but not limited to, seminar-style discussions about novels, plays, or films; the submission of original artwork, poetry, short stories; author-meets-critics panels; roundtable discussions.

As always, topics beyond the conference theme of “Human Families” related to the Arts, Literature, Media, and Religion (broadly conceived) are most welcome.

Please e-mail a 200-300 word abstract for your proposal to no later than December 15, 2019. In your proposal, please include the title, your name, institutional affiliation, and any audio/visual needs. Feel welcome to contact Charles Gillespie at the above address with any questions or concerns.

      The College Theology Society is a registered, non-profit professional society and a Related Scholarly Organization of the American Academy of Religion.


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