CFP: Postsecularism in High and Popular Culture

For Original Posting, see here.

Organizer: Ryan Siemers

Contact the Seminar Organizers

Organized by the American Religion and Literature Society, this seminar proposes to examine international postsecularism—that is, the persistence or resurgence of religion—in both high and popular culture. While religion has garnered increasing attention in both literary and pop-cultural studies since the late 1990s, relatively little scholarship has juxtaposed religion in (or as) high and popular culture. John Wiley Nelson, in his classic text Your God Is Alive and Well and Appearing in Popular Culture, articulates received wisdom when he states that high art “challenges one’s self-understanding towards self-criticism and insight” and that, by contrast, the “worship” of popular culture “affirm[s] already held beliefs and values.”1 We may wish to revise Nelson’s dichotomy, however. To point out one difficulty, for individuals who value self-criticism (in accordance with the precepts of many religions), high art as Nelson defines it would affirm their already held beliefs and values and thus function like popular culture. Nevertheless, religion probably does work differently in and across these cultural domains, and the differences between artifacts of high and popular culture—in terms of their production, form, marketing, reception, and so on—may help us shed light on the postsecular generally.

The seminar organizers welcome paper proposals concerning postsecularism in high culture, popular culture, and both high and popular culture. Borrowing from Bruce David Forbes,2 we may divide the relationship between religion and culture (high, popular, or both) into four areas, all of which are welcome avenues of inquiry:

    1. Religion in culture – that is, religious characters, rituals, symbolism, etc. in culture
    1. Culture in religion – that is, the influence of the broader culture on religion
    1. Culture as religion – that is, the adaptation or transformation of religion in the secular domain
    1. Religion in dialogue with culture – for example, interventions in cultural debates by religious figures


1. John Wiley Nelson, Your God Is Alive and Well and Appearing in Popular Culture (Philadelphia, Westminster Press, 1976), 196.

2. Bruce David Forbes, Introduction, Religion and Popular Culture in America(University of California Press, 2017), 11.

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