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.


Registration link here: 

For more information, write to Dr. Patricia Brown at 




2023 Southwest Conference on Christianity and Literature

Baylor University, Waco TX

September 21-23, 2023

To speak of our historical moment as one of great cultural upheaval is trite understatement, to be sure. Ours, however, is not merely an age of change; it is a period of ongoing change.  The “unprecedented” has been normalized.  Crisis and scandal and outrage all have become de rigueur, the “new normal,” of our disorienting change. In the midst of this tumult and change, human relationships have been transformed.  The Conference on Christianity and Literature exists, in part, to explore “the relationships between Christianity and literature” in hopes of discovering how one might, as the psalmist wrote, “sing the songs of the Lord/while in a foreign land.” Or, to borrow from Robert Frost, perhaps literature in a fallen world (would it exist in any other kind of world?) is one of humanity’s efforts to address the question of “what to make of a diminished thing.” The psalmist who longs for a particular homeland, the poet who abides in exile—these paradigmatic voices echo and resound in our age.  In light of this reality, the 2023 SWCCL conference theme is Aliens and Allies

Possible paper topics include, but are not limited to:

• Christianity, literature, and homecoming
• literature as advocacy
• war and literature
• pilgrimage and place
• art and propaganda
• story in an age of narrative collapse
• art and freedom
• Christian friendship
• literature as a mode of knowing
• defending the defenseless
• Christianity, literature, and the scandal of particularity
• poetics and/vs. rhetoric
• Christianity, politics, and the Kingdom of God
• political freedom and Christian freedom
• Christianity, literature, and hospitality

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

Keynote speakers

Dr Lori Branch (University of Iowa)

Dr Branch is the author of Rituals of Spontaneity: Sentiment and Secularism from Free Prayer to Wordsworth (Baylor University Press, 2007), winner of the Christianity and Literature Book of the Year Award 2007, and of the forthcoming books Postsecular Reason: A Manifesto, and The Violation of God: Masculinity and Secularism in the Enlightenment. She is editor of the monograph series Literature, Religion, and Postsecular Studies for Ohio State University Press. Her keynote address will be entitled, “Religion and Secularism: Postsecular Allies?”

Dr Natalie Carnes (Baylor University)

Dr Carnes is the author of Motherhood: A Confession (Stanford University Press, 2020); Image and Presence: A Christological Reflection on Iconoclasm and Iconophilia (Stanford University Press, 2017); and Beauty: A Theological Engagement with Gregory of Nyssa (Cascade Books, 2014). Currently, she is working on a project that explores intersections of poverty, aesthetics, luxury, and art, pursuing the question: What is the place of art in a world of poverty and suffering? Her keynote address will be entitled, “The Artist as Ascetic: How the Denials and Excesses of Art Witness to Christian Hope”.

Please e-mail a one-paragraph abstract for an individual presentation or a one-paragraph abstract for a group panel session by June 15, 2023 to 

Conference Team

Stephen Barnes,

Toby Coley,

Luke Ferretter,

Lynne Hinojosa,

Moisés Park,



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:









Theme: "Transformations in Literary Traditions"

CCL East regional conference
Dates: June 2–3, 2023
Location: Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA

Keynote speaker: Phillip Donnelly

Centuries after Homer, Virgil’s Aeneid expanded the scope of the Greek epics to show, in Virgil’s presentation, that the Trojans or Romans were the true victors of the Trojan War. Such literary subversion is not unique to the pagan writers. In Beowulf the mingling of Christian and pagan elements results in a national epic set at the historical point at which England was converting to Christianity. And Milton’s Paradise Lost even further transforms the epic genre in subject matter, muse, heroic qualities, etc.

Justifications for these transformations are rooted in biblical sources and the writings of church fathers. The Apostle Paul speaks of the renewing of our minds and the captivity and demolition of any arguments that raise themselves against the knowledge of God. Origen may have been the first church father to use the biblical account of the Hebrews’ plundering the Egyptians as a metaphor for the Christian appropriation of pagan culture. (Augustine’s more famous usage appears both in his Confessions and On Christian Teaching.) In a letter, Jerome describes Goliath’s sword—which David used to decapitate Goliath himself—as a metaphor for how Christians can use pagan learning for the cause of Christ.

The transformation of literary traditions reverberates in contemporary times as well. Regarding the work of Cormac McCarthy, Michael Crews has written about the process of how “matter for” a work of literature becomes “matter in” the work itself (Books Are Made Out of Books 14). In the realm of poetry, Micah Mattix writes, “[P]oets like Shane McCrae have drawn from the post-structuralist critique of language as pure representation to show how the West has suppressed the voices and experiences of the marginalized. The subversion one finds in his work is a distinctly Christian kind of subversion, where the poet speaks for the silenced minority and shows how the culturally determined language of Western Christianity can be just that—culturally determined—rather than a faithful representation of the ethic found in the Old Testament and the Gospels” (Christian Poetry in America Since 1940 18).

With these transformations in mind, we invite papers that address questions of scholarship and questions of pedagogy. Related themes include the following:
• Transformations in Eastern or Western literary traditions,
• Christ and culture paradigms in literature,
• Conditions of appropriate appropriation,
• Imitation as flattery,
• Tensions between (or the harmony of) humility and triumph,
• The dangers of triumphalism,
• The blessings of triumph,
• Transformation as formation,
• Conventions, expectations, and surprise,
• The creation of new traditions,
• Etc.
As always, going beyond the topic at hand, we welcome any proposals that consider the relationship of Christianity and literature. Please email abstracts of no more than 500 words to Jeremy Larson ( by March 31, 2023.



After Disaster

Southeast Regional Conference on Christianity and Literature

Charleston Southern University

Charleston, SC

October 26-28

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Susan Felch, Professor Emerita, Calvin University

My [kitchen, syllabus] is a disaster. [Higher ed, the planet] faces impending disaster. [The responsible party of your choice] bungled the disaster response. We frequently invoke the word “disaster” to convey a sense of magnitude but also to imply events beyond our control. Questions of agency lie embedded in the word’s etymology—maybe it’s the stars’ fault—and yet we seem to believe that human response is possible and perhaps even imperative. Among the many possible responses to various disasters over the millennia, the literary offers the opportunity to slow down, to examine what has happened and what may be salvaged—and to develop and practice Christian virtues.

Conference participants will ponder these themes with keynote speaker Dr. Susan Felch (Renaissance and Reformation scholar and co-author of Teaching and the Christian Imagination). We invite papers that consider literary responses to disasters past, present, and future (the “after” in the conference title is mostly there for assonance). Possible topics include but are not limited to:

• Lament and other biblical genres depicting and responding to disaster
• Plague, famine, and fire in literature
• Cli-fi (climate fiction)
• Ethical and aesthetic limitations of depicting disaster, whether personal or public
• Interpreting and/or memorializing disaster in its aftermath
• Theodicy and other theological responses to disaster
• Agency in disaster prevention, experience, or response

Other proposals concerning the relationship of Christianity and literature, including panel proposals and creative works, are welcome. Presenters should be members of the Conference on Christianity and Literature by the time of the conference.

Submit abstracts of 250-300 words by August 1, 2023, to Dr. Carissa Turner Smith, 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. Graduate students accepted to the conference are encouraged to apply for the CCL Conference Travel Grant.