CENTER FOR RESEARCH IN FESTIVE CULTURE
Fridays, 2-5 P.M.
September, October, November
at the Newberry Library, Chicago
DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION OF PROPOSALS: NOV. 2, 2006
This is the call for papers for the next sessions of the CRFC, which will be held in mid-September, mid-October, and early November next year (precise dates to be negotiated with the speakers).
In all the world’s cultures of which we have record, religious feelings have been present at the cradle of the festive. Until the eighteenth century in Western cultures festivity was scarcely thinkable without a religious dimension, whether central in the form of saints’ days or marginal in the form of royal entries. Since the eighteenth century comprehension of the religiously festive has increasingly faded from elite consciousness, but its two main expressions have continued to orient the lives of most people: a formulaic, ritualized mode in the case of official-churches’ holy-days; a spiritualist-expressive and personalized mode in the case of unofficial, marginalized religious organizations and churches.
Religion like festivity fosters community feelings of togetherness and mutuality which have ideological and imaginative as much as practical dimensions. But these dimensions do not always synchronize. In some traditions religion and festivity are near opposites. Suspicion of anything fostering bodily expression, such as festivity, has always characterized the ascetic side of Christianity, for example. On the other hand, religious movements often utilize the festive impulse rather than trying to contain it, as in the case of the new American mega-churches and of the Tazi’ah tradition in Shia Islam. Are these forces balancing each other today or failing to do so in our ever more consumer-oriented societies?
Such questions as this beat upon the contemporary psyche. It seems high time for our Center, with its interdisciplinary mission and wide-ranging mode of discussion, to devote itself to the religious qualities that infuse festive behavior, forming and on occasion deforming both what is religious and what is festive.
Please write to me within the next two weeks (i.e., by the time of All Saints and All Souls, Nov. 1-2) with your proposal for a paper by yourself or the name and address of someone that I should contact about this subject-area. One paper, previously accepted but not so precisely relevant to last spring’s sessions as to those proposed herewith, has already been scheduled for the 2007 seminars. James Stokes, U. of Wisconsin, one of the scholars working on the REED project (cf. Hays’ and McLean’s papers for past CRFC seminars), will discuss with us the following paper at either the September or October, 2007, seminar: “Attacking the Festive World: Entertainments, Religion, and Cultural Control in Tudor England.”
As usual, we will combine one senior-scholar paper like that of Stokes with a study by a junior scholar who has recently finished or is about to finish doctoral work. Given the present conjuncture of events, I hope particularly to receive proposals carrying forward our inquiries into Middle-Eastern festivity, initiated last year by the papers of Janet Afary and Hakki Gurkas. To apply, please send a brief c.v. and a one-page synopsis of the proposed paper, including a statement about the relation of the paper to your other work. Send these materials by e-mail either to me, Sam Kinser, Director, CRFC (firstname.lastname@example.org) or to Molly Schultz, secretary for the CRFC at the Newberry Library, Chicago (email@example.com).
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