The Power of the Word: Poetry, Theology and Life 17-18 June 2011

An International Conference
The Power of the Word: Poetry, Theology and Life 17-18 June 2011 
Heythrop College, University of London

This conference is organized by Heythrop College and the Institute of 
English Studies, University of London.

Keynote Speakers: Professor Gianni Vattimo (University of Turin), 
Professor Helen Wilcox (University of Bangor), Professor M. Paul 
Gallagher (Gregorian University, Rome), Professor Paul Fiddes 
(University of Oxford), tba.
Other invited speakers include: Professor John Took (UCL), Professor Jay 
Parini (Middlebury College, Vermont), Prof. Georg Langenhorst (University of Augsburg), Olivier-Thomas Venard (Professor Ecole 
Biblique, Jerusalem), Dr Antonio Spadaro (Gregorian University, Rome), Dr Stefano Maria Casella (IULM University, Milan), Dr Florian Mussgnug (UCL).

Conference organizers: David Lonsdale (Heythrop College, University of 
London) and Dr Francesca Bugliani Knox (Heythrop College, University of 
Conference committee: Professor John Took (UCL), Dr Anna Abram (Heythrop 
College), Dr Antonio Spadaro (Gregorian University, Rome), Dr James 
Sweeney (Heythrop College), David Lonsdale (Heythrop College), Dr 
Francesca Bugliani Knox (Heythrop College), Dr Michael Kirwan (Heythrop 

Religion has always been part of Western literary traditions. Many 
canonical literary texts engage extensively with theology and religious 
faith and practice, and theological and spiritual writers make liberal 
use of literary genres, tropes and strategies. Recent work in philosophy 
of religion, theology, the study of religions and literary criticism has 
once again brought to the fore issues which arise when literature, 
faith, theology and life meet, whether in harmony or in conflict. This 
international conference aims to:

 foster a dialogue among scholars in theology, philosophy, spirituality 
and literature and between these and creative writers;

 discuss the ‘truth’ of poetry and the ‘truth’ of theology in relation to each other; 
 reassess the idea of poetry as a criticism of life; 
 discuss the relationship between faith, theology and the creative 
imagination through an examination of theoretical issues and the study of specific texts; 
 examine the importance of poetry for personal and social identity, 
social cohesion and relations between faiths and cultures.

The organisers invite scholars currently working in the subject field to 
offer panel papers (30 minutes plus 10 minutes discussion) to address 
the following titles and themes. Please email
abstracts of 500 words max. by Friday 14 October 2010 to: and

Titles and themes of panels:
1. Why poetry matters
 The activity of reading 
 ‘Tolle, lege’: reading as transformative 
 Poetry and the development of the reader 
 The purpose and value of religious poetry 
 Is religiously committed literary criticism possible, desirable, necessary? 
 Specific writers and texts

2. Poetry, faith, religion and theology
 Faith and the poet 
 Poetry and poets in theological perspective 
 Religious experience and the experience of poetry 
 Devotional poetry 
 What makes a work of poetry theologically or religiously significant or relevant? 
 Metaphor, symbol, faith and theology 
 Is the writer/poet as such theologically significant? 
 Specific writers and texts

3. Poetry and the mystical
 Relationships between mysticism and poetry 
 Mystical poetry 
 Poets as mystics, mystics as poets 
 Specific writers and texts

4. Imagination, faith and theology
 The place of imagination in religion, faith, theology, spirituality 
 The ‘sacramental imagination’; poetry as sacramental 
 Reason and imagination in faith and theology 
 Theology, spirituality and the poetic imagination
 Specific writers and texts

5. Poetry and sacred texts
 ‘Secular’ and ‘sacred’ poetic texts 
 ‘Secular’ poetry and sacred texts 
 Specific writers and texts

6. Poetry and society
 Does poetry make anything happen? 
 Poetry, literary criticism and ethics 
 Poetry and politics 
 Specific writers and texts