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Poetics of Sacred Genres: Transformations of Medieval and Early Modern Christian Literature between the 18th and 20th Century

November 24, 2021

We are excited to inform you about a new project by Nicolas Detering (PI), Emma Louise Brucklacher (Postdoc) and Anita Martin (Doc) at the University of Bern. The research group traces the transformation of Christian literary genres in the period following the enlightened criticism of religion, i.e., between the mid 18th and the mid 20th century. The project is subdivided into three parts concerning (1.) the reception of early modern hymns in Klopstock, Gellert, and Novalis, (2.) the transformation of the baroque miracle play at the beginning of the 19th century, and (3.) the appropriation of medieval legends of the saints from Keller to Seghers.

In collaboration with visiting scholars, the research group wants to investigate the way literary modernism draws on older patterns and generic schemes of religious literature to negotiate the sacred – even in those instances where it rejects Christianity programmatically. Thus, the group argues that the debate on the dynamics of secularization and sacralization in the modern era needs to be reformulated with respect to genre and intertextuality.


For more information, see the project’s website http://gps.unibe.ch.

Lecture Series on “Religion and Literacy in the Ancient World” at the University of Potsdam, Germany

October 22, 2021

Dear everyone,

the chairs of Ancient History and Classical Philology at the Universität Potsdam offer a lecture series in the winter term 2021-22. The term’s overarching topic is “Religion and Literacy in the Ancient World.”

The series will have a hybrid format, with most lectures taking place at the University of Potsdam and all of them being also broadcast online (Zoom). All lectures will be held on Tuesdays, beginning at 6.15 pm CET.

If you are interested in the series, you can register, both for online attendance and for attendance in presence, by sending an email to sekretariat-altertum@uni-potsdam.de. Further information can be found here.

Upcoming Workshop on “Literature and Religion”

September 1, 2021

The research group on “Literature and Religion” at the University of Halle is hosting a two-day workshop on the theme of “Rhetoric and Transcendence,” September 30 – October 1, 2021, organized by Robert Buch and Daniel Weidner.

The general aim of the workshop centers on recent reformulations of the relationship between religious and literary studies. Rather than insist on strict disciplinary entrenchment, the research group encourages scholars to explore mutual points of contact and shared interests—how literary and cultural studies have become more open to religious semantics and horizons of thinking, while philological and interpretive methods have recast approaches to theology and religious practices. As the organizers frame the field: “Literary-aesthetic questions, for example, about the mediality of literature often have religious implications and, conversely, can be related to aesthetic or poetic theologies. Figures of thought such as poetic charisma, community of reading, or literary canon are decisive for the politics of literature precisely in their religious associations. In this context, religion is currently no longer identified as a matter of course with theological dogma or with Christianity; Jewish affiliation, Islamic piety, spiritual knowledge, etc. can also be considered in connection with literature and literary procedures.”


Further information may be found on the event’s webpage.

Blog Project by Literature and Religion – Resources for Academic Inquiry

July 8, 2021

Dear everyone,

We would like to inform you about a blog project by literatureandreligion.org: They are seeking a scholar to serve as an editor for a section on Europe.

The task of the editor is to curate a short list of essential readings and to provide a longer bibliography, plus any other resources helpful to scholars interested in the study of religion and literature in Europe. The editor can work alone or assemble a collaborative team of scholars specializing in different European countries.

Within this frame, literatureandreligion.org is particularly interested in helping scholars based in North America understand any differences in the way that their European colleagues conceptualize or practice their research in religion and literature. The name and institutional affiliation of the editor will appear with the Europe section and in the list of contributors.

Further information can be obtained from Sharon Kim, skim@judsonu.edu. If you have any questions, please contact her.

With best wishes,
Almut and John

Ritual Writing Contexts: New Perspectives on Manufacturing a Kosher Torah Scroll

May 7, 2021
(by Annett Martini)

Annett Martini’s book “‘Arbeit des Himmels’: Jüdische Konzeptionen des rituellen Schreibens in der europäischen Kultur des Mittelalters. Eine Studie zur Herstellung der STaM vor dem Hintergrund der christlichen Schreibkultur” will be published this year in the series Studia Judaica at De Gruyter, Berlin. The book is a revised version of her postdoctoral thesis (Habilitationsschrift).

The study deals with the production of ritually pure scrolls, the so-called STaM (Torah Scrolls, Tefillin, and Mezuzot), changing the perspective on this crucial issue of Jewish manuscript tradition from a mere textual, codicological, and paleographical to a more complex cultural view. To this end, Martini suggests a general distinction between the holy scrolls and other writings of the Hebrew manuscript tradition since only the copying of the STaM is regulated by a tightly meshed network of religious laws.

By analyzing almost completely neglected rabbinic, mystical, philosophical, and exegetical sources dealing with the manufacturing of holy scrolls in terms of ritual, memory, and the cultural environment, the study shifts the focus from the material artefact to the recipients. The outcome of this investigation is a whole new perspective on the function of (especially) a Torah scroll as a medium of memory, demarcation and identity within Jewish diaspora.

At the same time, Martini calls into question the image of Jewish diasporic existence as a self-contained, secluded minority with atavistic features, which persevered its identity within a Christian dominated society by rites of demarcation. Rather, she is able to prove that the enormous religious and social function ascribed to the holy books within Christian society as well as the tremendous affinity for all kinds of consecrations in Latin Europe are but some aspects of a complex social, religious, and political system – a system serving as a trigger of ritual dynamics which changed the way Jews manufactured and handled holy scrolls and books.

“Teaching Religion and Literature” – collection of essays by Routledge

April 27, 2021

It is our pleasure to recommend “Teaching Religion and Literature” published by Routledge in October 2018. This useful collection of essays edited by Daniel Boscaljon and Alan Levinovitz provides a practical engagement with the pedagogical possibilities of teaching (a) religion courses using literature, (b) literature classes using religion, and (c) Religion and Literature as a discipline. With this threefold approach, the book is helpful for anyone interested in providing interdisciplinary education within the field of Religion and Literature.


For more information, including the book’s Table of Contents, click here!

New Book by Daniel Vorpahl – Aus dem Leben des Buches Jona: Rezeptionswissenschaftliche Methodik und innerjüdischer Rezeptionsdiskurs

March 2, 2021

Daniel Vorpahl’s Aus dem Leben des Buches Jona: Rezeptionswissenschaftliche Methodik und innerjüdischer Rezeptionsdiskurs (SBR 17, De Gruyter 2021) provides an innovative method for the study of reception in between the fields of literary and religious studies, and gives an illustrative example of its practice through analysis of one of the strangest books of the Bible.

In order to distinguish from terms like history of effects or history of interpretation Vorpahl puts forth a new approach to the definition of reception and its methodical study. He combines premises of the New Historicism with exegetical procedures and analytical terms from religious studies into a comparative literary study of the dynamics of traditions. In an exemplary examination of the early Jewish and rabbinic receptions of the prophetic book of Jonah, Vorpahl contextualizes their sources in terms of discourse analysis and scrutinizes them in a comparative manner along uniform analysis categories. In this way he succeeds in portraying narrative-dynamic negotiation processes of the intra-Jewish reception discourse on the book of Jonah, and proves the potential of his method for the study of reception.

Daniel Vorpahl’s book stands betwixt and between the academic fields of Biblical Studies, Religious Studies, Jewish Studies and Literary Studies, while contributing a methodological enrichment for all of them.

New project on Religion & Literature (“R&L”) by Cooper Harriss

February 8, 2021

This is to inform you that Cooper Harriss, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University and Founding Co-Editor (with Sarah Imhoff) of the journal American Religion, received an IU Presidential Arts & Humanities Award for the project “R&L”, which he describes as follows:

“Scholars working across religious and literary studies have much to offer one another, yet they (and their work) confront a disciplinary divide. […] ‘R&L’ is a series of workshops that bring together scholars working at the nexus of religion and literature in a wide range of literary and religious traditions in a variety of historical and geographical contexts: from contemporary poetics of the Black Sacred to those underlying Chinese Confucianism, from colonial Latin America to medieval Europe and Japan, from poetry, plays, and novels to picture books.”

A future workshop will be held this year with further plans still in process. To find out more about the project, click here!

We Welcome our New Member

December 4, 2020

Please let us introduce you to our new member Daniel Vorpahl:

Daniel Vorpahl studied Jewish Studies, Religious Studies and Comparative Literature and is working interdisciplinary within these three academic fields. He received his PhD from the University of Bamberg with a study on the inner-Jewish reception discourse on the biblical book of Jonah.

Daniel Vorpahl is research assistant at the Chair of Hebrew Bible and Its Exegesis at the University of Potsdam. His field of research contains literary constructions of gender roles and identities, religious topics and motifs in children and youth literature, methods of discourse analytical reception research, and the reception of biblical themes and motifs.

HolyLit now in RelBib

November 3, 2020

Hello everyone! 

We’re so glad to announce that we are now part of the RelBib project! RelBib is a comprehensive online bibliography for the study of religion. It is available to interested users free of charge (Open Access), worldwide and without login. Starting this week, you can find our posts in RelBib, too. But, of course, we’re here to answer any of your questions, as usual. 


RelBib is published by Tübingen University Library and its content is supervised by the Subject Information Service for Study of Religion (FID Religionswissenschaft). The bibliography represents a special view of the underlying data pool of IxTheo (Index Theologicus) focussing on the field of the study of religion. It has its own web presence with the RelBib portal. A team specially for RelBib guarantees that the requirements and specializations of the study of religion community are adequately represented despite the common data pool.

In RelBib you will find

  • Monographs (“books”)
  • Articles and reviews from more than 200 journals of the study of religion
  • Free electronic journals and digital content
  • Databases, weblogs etc. relevant to the study of religion

Enjoy checking it out!
All best, Almut and John