Literature as Vocation 

Western Regional Conference on Christianity and Literature

Azusa Pacific University

Azusa, CA

March 16-18, 2023


Keynote Speaker: James K.A. Smith

James K.A. Smith is a professor of philosophy at Calvin University and serves as editor in chief of Image journal, a quarterly devoted to “art, mystery, and faith.” Trained as a philosopher with a focus on contemporary French thought, Smith has expanded on that scholarly platform to become an engaged public intellectual and cultural critic. In his latest book, How to Inhabit Time: Understanding the Past, Facing the Future, Living Faithful Now (2022), Smith shows that awakening to the spiritual significance of time is crucial for orienting faith in the 21st century. Integrating popular culture, biblical exposition, and meditation, Smith’s text provides insights for pastoring, counseling, spiritual formation, politics, and public life.


Why do we do what we do in the field of literary studies? Why does it matter? To whom? What redemptive or transformative work does literature do? When? Where? How? We invite reflection and conversation about the different kinds of work literature does to and through writers, readers, teachers, thinkers, and scholars. Our topic is intentionally broad as we seek to inspire, encourage, and celebrate the creation, interpretation, and appreciation of literature from any historical period and any genre. Our format is inclusive with panels for professors, graduate and undergraduate students, as well as scholars from multiple disciplines including English, Modern Languages, Theology, Education, Psychology, Science, and Humanities.

Suggested topics include but are not limited to the following:

  • the work of re-enchantment: magical realism, refreshment, joy, delight
  • the work of transformation: secular/post-secular accounts of religious experience, narratives of conversion and de-conversion, spiritual autobiography
  • the work of empathy: emotion and affect, caregiving, accounts of suffering, grief, and illness
  • the work of social justice: remembrance, rediscovery, lament, protest, reconciliation, peace
  • the work of stewardship: ecology, creation care, apocalypse


E-mail a one-paragraph abstract for an individual presentation or a one-paragraph abstract for a group panel session by December 1, 2022 to Dr. Patricia Brown at Undergraduate students must submit their entire paper for consideration; eligible undergraduate papers will be entered into the national CCL Undergraduate Writing Contest for a cash prize and publication on the CCL website. Graduate students are encouraged to apply for the CCL Travel Grant.



Regional conferences afford members an opportunity to learn from one another and to build networks of support for their scholarly and professional endeavors. They also offer graduate students an opportunity to gain valuable experience presenting at conferences.

For the themes of past and recent regional conferences, please click on the regions below:










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.”

Possible paper topics include, but are not limited to:
• The intersection of feminism and Christianity
• Children’s literature
• The effect of the male gaze on women’s representation in film
• Masculinist representations of the feminine
• Women and silence
• The maternal in literature
• Women students in the Zoom classroom • Women and the construction of the text
• Restrictions on women’s reading
• Early church mothers
• BIPOC women in literary texts
• Women in community, secular or sacred
• The Pre-Raphaelites’ use of women subjects
• Women’s spirituality in popular media

As always, SWCCL is open to other proposals concerning the relationship of Christianity and literature, including panel proposals and creative works. Readings of original poetry and fiction will also be considered (please email conference coordinators for details).  

Undergraduate and graduate students are also encouraged to submit proposals. Undergraduate students must submit their entire paper for consideration; eligible undergraduate papers will be entered into the national CCL Undergraduate Writing Contest for a cash prize and publication on the CCL website. Graduate students accepted to the conference are encouraged to apply for the CCL Travel Grant.