Welcome to HolyLit—a blog maintained by the International Study Group “Religion & Literature” (ISGRL), founded in 2010 under the direction of Almut-Barbara Renger (Freie Universität Berlin) and co-directed by John Hamilton (Harvard University). Here you can find any information concerning the group´s research, its authors, publications and upcoming events. Feel free to contact the blog’s administrator, Rabea Klein Altstedde:
What Is it About?
Study Group: Religion & Literature
The modern era of rationality, science, and technology has generally been characterized as an age of increasing secularization, the effects of which are discernible in many aspects of human society and culture across the globe. However, against this background, the persistence of religious beliefs and themes remains a formative force, most particularly in contemporary literature. This phenomenon constitutes a highly significant field for scholarly research, not only in terms of the critical examination of religious traditions that articulate doubts in God, dogma, and institutions, but also in terms of a rediscovery and revitalization of various religious heritages and new religious movements.
The general question of the difference between literary and religious texts arises here as the primary motivation for the study group “Religion and Literature.” Do certain characteristics of style, form or content allow a distinction between literary and religious texts? What kind of intertextual transfers can be registered from one sphere to the next? Are there specific approaches that may be identified as religious or spiritual reading? Where does scriptural exegesis end and literary hermeneutics begin? To what extent does devotional attention relate to textual or rhetorical analysis?
The study group began by focusing primarily on diverse genres of twentieth-century German literature which engage with ancient Jewish and Christian traditions and myths; but now remains open to considering other literary histories and other theologies from around the world. Above all, within an academic framework, the study group aims to establish interdisciplinary and international co-operations of scholars from different disciplines including but not limited to Comparative Literature, German Studies, Religious Studies, Theology, Jewish Studies, Sociology, and Philosophical Anthropology. Joint seminars and events are held to entertain a variety of new perspectives and broach incisive questions. Smaller groups with a different focus are encouraged to develop specific lines of investigation, which are subsequently brought into conversation with representatives of scholarly and literary praxis.
The study group was introduced to the general public as part of the “Lange Nacht der Wissenschaften Berlin” (“Long Night of Scholarship Berlin”) on June 5, 2010. Its inaugural event on June 10 featured a discussion with Uwe Saeger regarding his novel, Die gehäutete Zeit (“Skinned Time,” 2008), a fictitious report by Judas Iscariot on his betrayal of Jesus. The novel can be regarded as a reflection of the reawakened interest in this paradigmatic traitor and complicated figure, following the publication of the second-century “Gospel of Judas” in 2006. In this respect, the occasion crystallized the members’ initial aspirations. The group has since been eager to welcome international scholars and students interested in sharing a platform for exchange and discussion at the intersection of literature and religious themes, topics and provocations from the world’s varied historical traditions.