CFPs: American Literature Association Conference, 2023

The American Religion and Literature Society (ARLS) invites papers for a panel at the 2023 American Literature Association Conference, May 25-28th, and looks forward to reading your submissions for our three panels this year:

  • Contemplative Practice and Writing about Race
  • Midrash and the Literary
  • Marilynne Robinson, Jesus and John Wayne, and the American Evangelical Tradition (co-hosted with the Marilynne Robinson Society)

Submission Details

Please send your 350 word proposal and bio by January 6, 2023 and see below for relevant submission  emails.

Marilynne Robinson, Jesus and John Wayne, and the American Evangelical Tradition

The Marilynne Robinson Society and the American Religion and Literature Society (ARLS) will hold a joint panel at the annual American Literature Association Conference.  We are seeking papers that examine the author’s relationship to American evangelicalism.  Robinson’s spiritual vision has been shaped by the writings of Jonathan Edwards, who is considered to be the founding father of American evangelicalism.  How does Robinson’s body of work lead us to think critically about the evangelical tradition in the United States?  How do her essays and novels, particularly Gilead, provide a counter-narrative to the discourses found in modern and contemporary American evangelicalism?  In what ways can they respond to the incisive diagnosis presented by Kristen Du Mez’s recent book, Jesus and John Wayne, a text that examines the connection between American evangelicalism, Christian nationalism, rugged masculinity, and political power? How might Robinson’s novels and essays in conversation with Du Mez’s Jesus and John Wayne illuminate our understanding of the evangelical tradition in the United States?  These are some of the questions that the panel seeks to address.

Please submit a 350-word paper proposal and short bio to both and by January 6, 2023.

Midrash and the Literary

The American Religion and Literature Society (ARLS) invites papers for a panel at the 2023 American Literature Association Conference. We are seeking papers that explore the relevance of Midrash to contemporary literary criticism.

Midrash teaches that there exists not one authoritative meaning that we must discover but many possible meanings in whose unfolding we must participate. We see this happening in Talmud: a midrashic reader responds to a gap in the text by creating a narrative, which is, as Sandor Goodhart describes it, “a material extension” of the original text. The reader looks in between words, as well as in the space between God and man, in keeping with the rabbinic belief that meaning comes to be in dialogue between man and God. In this panel, we seek to consider how some of the attitudes and practices of ancient Midrash find echoes in contemporary theories of literary reading. Consider reader-response arguments that a text is not self-formulated but, rather, actualized through interpretation. Consider poststructuralist models in which the structure of language itself is interrogated and separated from the functioning of the literary.

We welcome papers that address questions including but not limited to:

  • What critical approaches seem to take cues from or reinstate midrashic patterns? Or, where do you see correspondences between Jewish hermeneutics and secular criticism?
  • How can an understanding of Midrash enrich our engagement with literary texts?
  • How can the midrashic mode inform efforts to make meaning in a post-Holocaust, poststructuralist, or postmodern age, when structures of meaning have failed or been deconstructed?
  • Does midrashic reading open up avenues for literary reading of sacred texts (as argued by Geoffrey Hartman)?
  • What has been the lasting impact of what David Stern named “the midrash-theory connection” that was expressed during the 1980s?

Please submit a 350-word paper proposal and short bio to by January 6, 2023.

Contemplative Practice and Writing about Race

More than three decades into the writing of his long-anticipated Hickman Novel, Ralph Ellison told an interviewer that the book’s composition represented his personal effort to achieve “a pause for contemplation of the moral significance of the history we’ve been through.” Taking Ellison’s words as inspiration, this panel will seek to generate a wide-ranging exploration of the ways in which contemplative practices of all kinds have helped American authors of different backgrounds depict, illuminate, and transform racial experience, consciousness, structures, and history. What role does reflection on the human self’s nature, situatedness, antecedents, and interconnectedness play in the writer’s struggle against racism? How have authors from different positionalities mobilized their search for increased awareness of divinity to reimagine racial identities, scripts, and relationships? What challenges do they face? What guidance does American literature—drawing on a host of widsom traditions, and perhaps even secular forms of mindfulness and meditation—offer the spiritual aspect of readers’ anti-racist work?

Please submit a 350-word paper proposal and short bio to bedelapiedra@gmail.comby January 6, 2023.