THE CONFERENCE ON CHRISTIANITY AND LITERATURE is an interdisciplinary society dedicated to exploring the relationships between Christianity and literature. Organized formally in 1956, CCL is dedicated to both scholarly excellence and collegial exchange and includes hundreds of members from a variety of academic institutions and religious traditions from the United States, Canada, and more than a dozen other countries.
CCL AT MLA 2014
◼ During a luncheon held at Chicago’s Frontera Grill on Friday, January 10, 2014, CCL honored several individuals for their outstanding contributions to the life of the mind and the work of the spirit.
The Lifetime Achievement Award was given to the award-winning fiction writer, Katherine Paterson. At the luncheon, Dale Brown, Director of the Buechner Center at King College – Mrs. Paterson’s alma mater — offered a moving tribute to the range of her accomplishments and the depth of her engagement with the Christian faith and the lives of young readers. To read Professor Brown’s tribute, click here.
After Dale Brown’s tribute, CCL President Roger Lundin presented Katherine Paterson with a plaque whose inscription read as follows:
The Conference on Christianity and Literature honors Katherine Paterson as the recipient of its Lifetime Achievement Award — We do so with profound appreciation for the sensitive brilliance of her work as a writer of fiction for young people and for her unstinting efforts to promote the beauty, power, and pleasures of reading. Seeking to share the gift of grace she has received through stories, Katherine Paterson has offered abiding words of hope, faith, and love to several generations of grateful readers.
At the luncheon, we also honored Sharon Kim (Judson University) for her Book of the Year award (see below) and Christopher Denny (St. Johns University) as the recipient of the 2013 Lionel Basney Award, which goes to the author of the essay chosen to be the best among all those published in Christianity and Literature during the previous year.
Titled “Revisiting Dante’s Promised End: Eschatological Implications of Peguy’s Jeanne d’Arc Mysteries,” Denny’s essay received the following commendation from the selection committee: The committee commends Denny for providing readers with a provocative and insightful essay that interweaves texts by Charles Péguy, Dante Alighieri, and Hans Urs von Balthasar in order to foreground issues central to eschatology. Denny’s work speaks to all readers of Christianity and Literature because it encourages readers to return to the work of Péguy, an undertreated poet, and because it provides an intriguing, if atypical and risky, model for future theologically-motivated researchers. The careful reader of Denny’s article is rewarded by fresh insights into the political and theological implications of vastly different imaginative conceptions of hope, evil, and ultimate judgment. By illuminating how Péguy saw himself as an “eschatological rival” to Dante, Denny opens up a range of valuable questions, each with a surprising contemporary salience, regarding the role of the apocalyptic imagination in Christian theology.
For those of us on the CCL Board, the weekend in Chicago was packed with activities. Friday’s luncheon was followed later that afternoon with a dynamic session on “African American Literature and Christianity” (see below); we owe special thanks to Katherine Clay Bassard for the outstanding work she did in assembling the panel and chairing the session. On Saturday, Katherine Paterson gave a series of readings from her novels, and they were interspersed with lively exchanges between her and members of the audience. In addition to these events, the CCL board held its own annual meeting. For three hours on Saturday morning, the board discussed a number of issues concerning the challenges we face in a new academic and economic environment as well as specific matters having to do with Christianity and Literature and the activities of the national organization. You will be hearing more about these matters over the course of the coming year. In the meantime, thank you for your ongoing support of CCL and its mission.
◼ We are pleased to announce the Conference on Christianity and Literature’s 2013 Book of the Year Award. It goes to Sharon Kim for Literary Epiphany in the Novel, 1850-1950: Constellations of the Soul published by Palgrave MacMillan. Kim is a Professor of English at Judson College, where she has taught since 2002. Her book undertakes an ambitious reassessment of the role of epiphany in the nineteenth-and twentieth-century novel and does so through a sustained engagement with interdisciplinary theory and criticism. Carefully attuned to the critical debate that surrounds the term “epiphany,” Kim’s work examines novels by six authors who embrace widely divergent philosophical and theological beliefs. The study traces, in Kim’s words, “the various impulses toward a depth-dimension, an unquantifiable ‘spiritual’ dimension in subjective experience that bears a resemblance to religion.” In doing so, she successfully opens space to “view more fully how modern epiphany works as an ironic mode of manifestation … and thus becomes a significant form of characterization in the novel.” Literary Epiphany in the Novel, 1850-1950 offers illuminating fresh readings of the modern novel and makes a strong case for the limits of any totally secularized account of literary epiphany.
◼ CCL also sponsored at the MLA convention a dynamic panel on African American Literature. Titled "Literary Crossroads: African American Literature and Christianity," this session was organized by Katherine Clay Bassard of Virginia Commonwealth University. She chaired the session, and presenters included Rhondda Thomas (Clemson University), Jonathan Fedora (University of Pennsylvania), and Claudia Rosemary May (University of California, Berkeley). This session was co-sponsored by the Division of Literature and Religion.
◼ Imago Dei: Poems from Christianity and Literature brings together a collection of poets who merge faith, literature, and art as a form of worship and inspiration.
The editor of the volume, Jill Baumgaertner, is an accomplished poet in her own right and served with distinction as the President of the Conference on Christianity and Literature from 1999-2003. She was commissioned by CCL to edit an anthology of the best poems published in the journal Christianity and Literature over the past sixty years. The work that resulted from her efforts, Imago Dei, gathers in a single volume poetry that exemplifies the richness, power, and paradox both of the English language and the Christian faith. These poems find beauty in the concrete and particular, but they also pose the large questions: Why do we exist? Who is God? Where do we find God? What does the Incarnation mean? When does God speak to us, and why is God silent?
All of the poets in this collection wrestle with what Imago Dei means for them as readers, writers, artists, teachers, and students. Please click on the link to see and hear what such superb poets as Wendell Berry, Dana Gioia, and Luci Shaw make of this question.
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