A (Post)Secular Age: Protestant Epistemologies and the American Novel
42nd Convention, Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
April 8-11, 2011
New Brunswick, NJ
This panel invites papers that rethink the relationship between novelistic realism and historical empiricism. Papers that deal with the popular Protestant novel in nineteenth- and twentieth-century America are particularly welcome: How do these novels prioritize and relate historical empiricism and religious belief? Could it be that they offer a different model for thinking about the novel as a necessarily secular genre? Please send 250 word abstracts to Kathleen Howard at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Post-secular critics are currently challenging the theory that the rise of historical empiricism, as a mode of thought, replaced religious belief and praxis. According to theorist Benedict Anderson, the seventeenth century ushered in a break between a religious cosmology and history, creating a need to link fraternity, power, and time in new ways. Nationalism, an ideology that links subjective identity to a history unfolding in “homogeneous, empty time,” filled this need. New literary genres like the novel presented stories that occurred in the time and space of the nation, offering readers a means of identifying as members of a community with a common, secular history.
This panel invites papers that challenge Anderson’s well-known thesis, specifically as it posits a single epistemological function for the realist novel. As post-secular critics are aware, the realist novel does not simply hasten secular modes of thinking: instead, it engages the shifting grounds of contemporary epistemology from a variety of positions, many of which are and have been explicitly religious. We are particularly interested in papers that deal with the wide array of popular Protestant novels in America. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, such novels have asked readers to imagine themselves simultaneously as historical and soteriological subjects. Our question is then: What do popular Protestant novels tell us about the relationship between historical empiricism, secularism, and religious belief? Could it be that these novels complicate dominate narratives of secularism in ways we have yet to account for?
Email 250 word abstracts to Kathleen Howard at email@example.com by September 30, 2010
See the entire NeMLA 42nd Convention CFP at http://www.nemla.org/convention/2011/cfp.html
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
510 George Street
New Brunswick, NJ Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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