The College Theology Society

 Serving Church and Academy Since 1954

The Arts, Media, Literature, and Religion

2021 Call for Papers

Charles Gillespie, Sacred Heart University (CT)

The Arts, Literature, Media, and Religion section of the College Theology Society cordially invites proposals for papers, presentations, provocations, projects, performances, and panels. The 2021 convention theme, “The Human in a Dehumanizing World: Re-Examining Theological Anthropology and Its Implications” invites us to reconsider how creativity, artistry, the design of the built environment, stories, and culture condition, inspire, or possibly constrict theological imaginations and understanding.

The section particularly seeks proposals that address the ways various arts, literatures, media, and religious aesthetics shape, occasion, and challenge our reflection on humans in a dehumanizing world. We invite a wide array of engagements with novels, film, media, poetry, painting, music, sculpture, drama, and architecture. The section also warmly welcomes proposals that approach the arts, media, and literature from more systematic, historical, theoretical, or practical perspectives.

In addition to proposals for traditional conference papers and works in progress, the Arts, Literature, Media, and Religion section especially encourages non-traditional submissions in the form of proposals for alternative formats including, but not limited to: seminar-style discussions about novels, plays, or films; the submission of original artwork, poetry, short stories, or performance as theology; author-meets-critics panels; roundtable discussions.

Non-specialists in the study of the arts, literature, media, or religion and theology are encouraged to view this section as an opportunity to stretch their interpretive vistas. Graduate students and newer members of the CTS have found a warm reception in our section.

Some ideas to kickstart your thinking about this year’s theme include, but are by no means limit them:

  • Do the forces that dehumanize the world have a style, sound, look, or feel? If so, what sorts of creative practices, arts, and literatures might we develop to “re-humanize” our experience with others?
  • Dystopia remains incredibly popular for readers and viewers alike; this genre doubles-down on visions of a “dehumanizing world” familiar from Orwell’s 1984 to Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale to Collins’s The Hunger Games. How might fiction invite us to name and reevaluate humans in a dehumanizing world? What role does religion or theological reflection play in dystopian narratives?
  • Can art or design contribute to a dehumanizing world? What role might artistic or literary creativity play in resisting dehumanizing worldviews? 
  • Re-evaluations of what public art and monuments celebrate or potential racism in beloved literatures have certainly played a role in recent conversations about white supremacy. Should Christians hold a particular position on how we uphold or remove dehumanizing artwork or language celebrated in public? On our syllabi? In our research?
  • How have examples in the history of sacred art or religious literature raised questions about being human in a dehumanizing world in the past?
  • A recent film—The Social Dilemma (2020)—raises many of the dehumanizing problems of our incredibly mediatized culture. The situation has only deepened thanks to COVID-19. Does considerations of theological anthropology or religious commitment add or change anything about ongoing debates about social media and its dehumanizing potential?
  • How does media influence the study of Christian scriptures, doctrines, and practices? In what ways have social media, journalism, and live video streaming become avenues to witness the “signs of the times”?
  • Considering humans in a dehumanizing world raises the question of creators and their responsibilities. Does “cancel culture” carry any theological or religious weight? What role might dehumanizing systems play in the lives of religious artists, composers, journalists, or writers?
  • What sorts of artworks, stories, films, objects, musicals, poems, plays, and songs could revitalize theological anthropology?
  • As always, topics beyond the conference theme of “Humans in a Dehumanizing World” related to the Arts, Literature, Media, and Religion (broadly conceived) will be considered.

Please e-mail your 200-300 word abstract to by January 15, 2021. In your proposal, please include the title of your project, your name, institutional affiliation, and any audio/visual needs. Feel welcome to contact Charles Gillespie at the above address with any questions or concerns.

      The College Theology Society is a registered, non-profit professional society and a Related Scholarly Organization of the American Academy of Religion.


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