"The Bible in Modernity"

Seminar at the Annual Meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association
March 17-20, 2016; Harvard University; Cambridge, MA; USA

Jenny Haase (Stanford University/HU Berlin), [log in to unmask]
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] 
Caroline Sauter (ZfL Berlin), [mailto:[log in to unmask]] [log in to unmask]
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] Modernity is usually thought of as the age of
secularization. At the turn to the 20thcentury, thinkers such as Darwin,
Nietzsche, or Freud fundamentally challenge a world view based on
Judeo-Christian religiosity, and their respective substitutes for religion –
evolutionism, nihilism, or psychoanalysis – try to make sense of a world that
dismisses God as the governing principle. This formerly sacrilegious possibility
arises after a fundamental shift in regard to the foundational texts of
Judeo-Christianity has taken place: Starting from the 19thcentury, a number of
philologists, theologians, orientalists, historians, and philosophers developed
a new Bible criticism that sees the Bible as a human cultural artifact rather
than a divine and unquestionable revelation, thus dismissing it as a source of
authority and making it an object of criticism in secular academies.
This leaves deep traces in the realm of modern art, and especially in
literature. Far from disappearing, the Bible becomes an object of fascination:
In the late 19thand early 20thcenturies, more and more modernist writers such as
Baudelaire, Joyce, Rilke, Valéry, Pound, Döblin, or T.S. Eliot turn to the Bible
without an explicitly religious agenda, using it as a source of aesthetic
inspiration and motifs. Also in political contexts, subversive and heterodox
readings of the Bible have provided strategies of legitimation for social
movements of emancipation since the Enlightment, and continue to do so at the
turn of the century when merging with Marxist and humanist ideologies, e.g. in
the New French Catholicism. In culturally hybrid spaces like Latin America,
syncretistic constructions of biblical narratives not only challenge the
authority of Catholicism, but also undermine the dominance of Eurocentric
visions of art and literature in general. Moreover, in theoretical terms,
thinkers in literary theory eventually come to use the Bible as a model for
developing new theories of criticism, of reading, of translation, or of
narration. Nevertheless, all those seemingly secularized works of art, political
essays, and theoretical reflections are clearly indebted to certain forms of
religious reading, thus challenging the very notion of secularization.
In our seminar, we are interested in discerning modernist writers’ different
strategies of coming to terms with the foundational texts of Judeo-Christianity
in a radically changing modern world. While drawing on the diverse forms and
effects of biblical intertextuality, we simultaneously wish to reconsider our
understanding of secularization itself. We therefore invite papers on modernist
writers and/or theorists from all languages and cultures that are explicitly
dealing with the Hebrew Bible and/or the New Testament.
If you are interested in participating, please email the seminar organizers.
Find more information about the seminar at

Paper abstracts must be submitted through the ACLA website: Paper submissions through the portal will
open Sept. 1 and close Sept. 23, 2015.

The German Studies Call for Papers List
Editor: Sean Franzel
Assistant Editor:  Olaf Schmidt
Sponsored by the University of Missouri
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