Southwest Conference on Christianity and Literature regional meeting  

September 29-October 1, 2022  

John Brown University  

Siloam Springs, Arkansas  

This conference theme is inspired by the artist Mary Cassatt’s paintings of girls and mothers with books, in particular “The Reader” on display at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. (Early conference attendees will have the opportunity to tour Crystal Bridges.) Papers on women authors such as Marilynne Robinson, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Flannery O’Connor, Zora NealeHurston, Charlotte Bronte, Dorothy Sayers, and Mary Shelley are warmly welcomed, as are topics that explore women’s representation in painting, film, or literature, particularly where such representations intersect with Christianity or other religions. Papers dealing with the changing nature of reading and the teaching of literature (Kindle versus print materials; the hybrid classroom) are also welcome.  

The keynote speaker for this conference is Wheaton College’s Dr. Crystal Downing, Co-Director of the Marion E. Wade Center and author of five books, most recently Subversive: Christ, Culture, and the Shocking Dorothy L. Sayers (2020). Downing’s presentation for SWCCL is entitled, “The Seeing of Sayers: A Scandalous Prophet.”



Images of the Hero: Heroism in Literature

East/Southeast Regional Conference

Patrick Henry College

Purcellville, VA (near Washington, DC)

June 10-11, 2022


Keynote Speaker: Dr. Tiffany Yecke Brooks, "The Lukan Christ Amid Hellenistic Heroes" (

In The Hero with A Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell asserts that the mythic figure of the hero is central to understanding the human experience. He argues that “the hero is symbolical of that divine creative and redemptive image within us all, only waiting to be known and rendered into life.” The hero, in other words, might be said to be the embodiment or archetype of the imago Dei raised to the highest pitch, functioning as an exemplar of what humanity at its level best can do. Thomas Carlyle also nods to the transcendently human nature of the hero in Of Heroes and Hero Worship, when he says that the hero is “he who lives in the inward sphere of things, in the True, Divine and Eternal, which exists always, unseen to most, under the Temporary, Trivial…”

The figure of the hero has perennially occupied a central place in the Western literary canon, from Homer to Tolkien. Yet in recent decades, the assumed virtues of traditional concepts of heroism and traditional depictions of heroes have been challenged and become subject to significant revision in popular culture. While the contemporary heroes of the Marvel Comics universe enjoy immense, culture shaping popularity, Homer’s heroes find themselves increasingly left out of secondary and post-secondary syllabi. These things raise the questions of what a hero is and what role the hero has yet to play in the 21st Century. Do the traditional heroes of the Western canon still have a role to play as transcendent ideals of humanity that carry us forward, or are they retrograde constructs in desperate need of revision?

This conference invites papers that explore the answers to these questions and attendant questions related to the mythic and the symbolic. Paper submissions might address the theme of literary heroism from any number of angles, but the following questions are offered as a starting point.

  • What is the role of a hero, a traditionally aristocratic character, in a society that sets a moral premium on egalitarianism?
  • Does the classical epic still have a place in the English curriculum, and if so, what is it? If not, has it been replaced? With what?
  • How do literary heroes inspire differently from the heroes of history, and is the idea of a real-life Hero a contradiction in terms?
  • What is behind our fascination with deconstructing heroes? Is the hero archetype, in fact, immoral?
  • What is literature’s role in either upholding or interrogating the ideals of heroism?
  • Is the Western ideal of the hero compatible with a Christian ideal of human virtue?
  • What might a theologically informed reading of the hero archetype look like? Does it offer significant revision to the canonical Western Ideal?
  • Any exploration of what might be considered the heroic in other mythic or symbolic literary figures is, of course, welcome.

Topic: "Cancel Culture," Christianity, and Literature

Wingate University

Wingate, NC

October 21-23, 2021

Keynote Speaker: Dr. John D. Sykes, Jr., Wingate University

Call for Papers: This has been the year of pandemic-induced cancellations—from international travel to athletic tournaments to our own Spring 2020 SECCL. The year also witnessed civil unrest, galvanized by George Floyd’s death in police custody.  This scenario has fueled widespread social self-examination on the issue of racism.  One result has been the acceleration of a new censoriousness in matters political, cultural, and academic.  Statues have been pulled down, university buildings re-named, jobs lost and new positions created, curricula overhauled, and the literary canon sifted—all in the name of new moral reckoning. For this conference, we would like to invite papers that deal in theoretical and practical consequences of this movement for literary study, especially for that undertaken by Christian scholars and teachers.  How should we respond to what is often pejoratively called “cancellation”?  This can be broadly understood as encompassing not only the effect upon university curricula  and the literary canon but also the censorious impulse within literature, and the religious impulses bound up with it, such as awakening, iconoclasm, and scapegoating.


The Company You Keep: Reading, Writing, & Socializing in Religious Literature

Affiliate Group: Southeast Conference on Christianity and Literature (joint conference with SAMLA)

November 4-6, 2021

Atlanta, GA

Literature is rife with the concept of the “social,” whether it be through exclusion or connection. The Bible records letters sent, Church History preserves the ways in which communities gathered and encouraged one another regardless of distance, and Christian writers have invested heavily in understanding the topic of community and social structures. This panel welcomes submissions that address the topics of intimacy, community, or exile. We welcome papers exploring literary works that engage with Christianity (or religion broadly) on the idea of the “social.”

Revenants: Christ, Time, and the Twenty-First Century
Southeast Conference on Christianity and Literature
June 6-8, 2019
Lee University
Cleveland, TN


Keynote Speaker: William Tate, Covenant College

Flannery O’Connor’s attribution of a “Christ-haunted” South, the metaphysical revenant that haunts Derrida’s “Of Spirit,” George Steiner’s Real Presences that “rattle about [language] like old rags or ghosts in the attic,” Richard Harries’s 2018 Haunted by Christ: Modern Writers and the Struggle for Faith, the recent currency of postsecular analysis—in these and many more instances a post-Christian literature, critical discourse, and broader culture has long been coming to terms with the terms and continuing claims of its past.  This conference seeks to explore and extend that haunting by inviting work that will address a variety of intersections between time, the Christian faith, and the literary enterprise.



Of ‘Gods and Monsters’: Shelley’s Frankenstein Two Hundred Years On

April 19-21, 2018

Union University

Jackson, Tennessee

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Christina Bieber Lake, Clyde S. Kilby Professor of English, Wheaton College, and author of Prophets of the Posthuman: American Literature, Biotechnology and the Ethics of Personhood (Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 2013). Dr. Bieber Lake is also the author of the book The Incarnational Art of Flannery O’Connor and many articles which have appeared in Books & Culture and elsewhere.

The primary theme of the convention will be a celebration of the bicentennial of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Union University itself envisions a campus-wide, interdisciplinary commemoration for the calendar year, though the focus for this conference will be on the intersection of theology and fiction. 



"See Rock City: The Power of Place as Origin, Home, or Destination"

April 6-8, 2017 

Covenant College 

Lookout Mountain, GA

Travelers in our region are accustomed to passing signs inviting them to “See Rock City.” The familiar signs provoke reactions ranging from nostalgia through tolerance to annoyance at the interruption of the landscape. Each of these reactions registers a sense of place and the importance place has for human beings. SECCL invites the submission of papers exploring the literary power of place understood or experienced as origin, home, or destination. Appropriate submissions might include papers on Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, which feature Rock City; they might also consider Wendell Berry’s Port William, Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, Robert Frost’s New England, Shakespeare’s London (or his Venice); or they might focus on a journey such as Abraham’s or Odysseus’s or Bilbo Baggins’s “there and back again.”



"Walker Percy Centennial: Pilgrimage in Literature"

April 28-30, 2016
Montreat College
Montreat, North Carolina

Keynote Speakers: Farrell O'Gorman, Belmont Abbey College & Jim Wildeman, Covenant College (Emeritus)

Literary characters often seek relationship with the God of the Bible. They feel detached from affairs in the material world. Pilgrims sense a call from God to pursue him spite of the unbelief surrounding the characters.

Essays will be considered from a variety of authors. Topics should pursue the intersection of faith and literature. Creative writing presentations are welcome.



"It's Only Natural(ism): Questioning and Responding to the Master Narrative of Late Modernity"

April 9-11, 2015
Charleston Southern University
Charleston, South Carolina

Keynote Speaker: Roger Lundin, Wheaton College

Undergraduates thrilling to the bleak despair of Stephen Crane or Thomas Hardy are often excited to discover the existence of naturalism as a philosophy of life and a literary movement of great importance. They are quick to draw parallels to contemporary issues and controversies, for naturalism’s reach is clearly not confined to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Christian philosophers such as Alvin Plantinga and Charles Taylor have identified naturalism, the belief that natural phenomena alone can explain human experience, as the defining feature of late modernity, and Plantinga has invoked naturalism’s status as a quasi-religion to reframe the supposed debate between science and religion: “there is a science-religion-conflict, all right, but it is between science and naturalism, not science and theistic religion.” Philosophical naturalism’s influence extends beyond the bounds of literary naturalism or science-and-religion discourse, surfacing even in theories of language, as Charles Taylor and Roger Lundin have argued. Across the disciplines, is naturalism a “master narrative” towards which postmodernity (if such a thing exists) has failed to be incredulous? Is naturalism, more than postmodernism, the contemporary challenge to both religion and science?


"Imagining Paradise"

April 3-5, 2014

Palm Beach Atlantic Unviersity

Palm Beach, Florida

Located on the Intracoastal Waterway about one mile from the coastline of Palm Beach Island, Palm Beach Atlantic University will host the 2014 southeastern regional meeting of the CCL and presents as its theme, "Imagining Paradise."

Paradise is a subject that has stirred the imaginations of writers for millennia while simultaneously exceeding the scope of artistic representation itself. Poets, playwrights, and novelists have been inspired to describe in various ways that which is indescribable. Language can only approximate visions of paradise occasioned by mystical experiences such as spiritual awakenings, ecstasies, and epiphanies. Conference organizers invite papers that explore how literary artists imagine paradise, from abstract images of height and light to concrete images of sublime mountain peaks and lush seascapes. Papers are also welcome that investigate literary depictions of paradise's dark opposite, hell, and its penitential proving grounds, purgatory. Papers with Blakean ambitions might even explore convergences between heaven and hell.