ISFNR Lecture Series “Voices from Around the Globe”

Dear friends and colleagues,

This is to inform you that tomorrow, on Friday, June 17 2022, at 5 p.m. CEST, the second lecture of The ISFNR Lecture Series: Voices from Around the Globe will be given, entitled The Payada: An Improvised Oral Poetic Duel in a Latin-American Context (see the abstract below). 

The speaker is Ercilia Moreno Chá, a researcher at the Universidad de Chile and the Instituto Nacional de Antropología y Pensamiento Latinoamericano of Argentina, a former director of the Argentine Instituto Nacional de Musicología “Carlos Vega” and an adviser on Latin American traditions for the Smithsonian Institution and UNESCO

A short introduction to the Latin American Folkloristics that will precede the lecture will be given by Maria Ines Palleiro, professor of Orality and Genetic Criticism at Buenos Aires University, retired Senior Researcher in Folk Narrative at the National Scientific and Technical Research Council, Argentina (CONICET), and vice-president for South America in the ISFNR Executive Committee.

The lecture will take place in English and be accessible at the following zoom link which you are welcome to share with any interested parties:

Meeting ID: 851 9592 2670

For further information, see:


The improvised poetic duel is an ancient world tradition that is still present today in Latin America where it takes various forms. One of these forms is the “Payada”, which is performed by two minstrels (payadores) singing and playing guitar. It has become a ritual performance with a special structure and inherent symbolism. Both of these aspects are drawn on in both the private context and during shows, festivities and Cultural Performances (Singer 1972).
The Payada phenomenon is performed with firm respect for traditional gender conventions. Its main objective is to compete by means of drawing on a variety of resources and types of poetic license, in order to prove which performer has the best skills in the art of poetic improvisation within the musical genres of each region.  Expression varies in accordance with the audience and the context in which the performance takes place. Generally, it involves not only poetic art but also rhetorical and argumentative skill. The Payada has a three-part structure: the beginning in which the payador introduces himself and/or greets the audience; the confrontation of ideas itself, and then finally a farewell. In performative terms, the art of Payada echoes the various phases of perfomance described by Richard Schechner (1994) in his studies of theatrical performances from the East and West: training, workshops, rehearsals, warm-ups, performance, relaxation and consequences. Improvised duels of this kind involving contests by two or more poets are a widely accepted global phenomenon. Payada as a particular kind of musical poetic confrontation is nonetheless an important part of an Iberoamerican tradition and involves a very unique genre of discourse. Case studies of the art from Argentina, Chile and Uruguay will be presented.


Welcome of New Member

We are delighted to welcome Linda Simonis who has been closely associated with our network for many years as a new member. Linda is Professor of Comparative Literature at Ruhr-University, Bochum since 2004.

Combining a philological approach with cultural and philosophical interests, her studies address issues at the intersections of literature and religion. Her interest in this inter­disciplinary domain arose in the context of a study on 18th century esoteric traditions (published 2002) and, ever since, has continued to present a major preoccupation of her academic work. Currently she is leading a research project on “Metaphors of every day in the works of Cusanus and Melanchthon” which is part of a Collaborative Research Centre on religious metaphors funded by the German Research Association at the Centre of Religious Studies (CERES) of Ruhr-University. Her research interests include: mysticism as a literary form, apocryphal texts and traditions, poetics of inscription and linguistic acts of commitment (promise, oath). Recent publications: (ed.) Medien und Religion. Ansätze zu einem interdisziplinären Forschungsprogramm. Bielefeld: Aisthesis 2019; Poetik der Inschrift. Heidel­berg: Winter 2019 [ed. with Ulrich Rehm]; „Hamanns Konzept der Urkunde zwischen Natur und Geschichte“, in: Eric Achermann / Johann Kreuzer / Johannes von Lüpke (ed.): Johann Georg Hamann: Natur und Geschichte. Acta des Elften Internationalen Hamann-Kolloquiums. Göttingen 2020, S. 309–322.


This Saturday: Talk on Europa/Europe by John Hamilton

Dear Colleagues,

I am pleased to announce a presentation by John Hamilton in our Europe/Europa Lecture Series. 
Saturday, May 21, at 2:30 pm (CET), Dr. John Hamilton (Harvard) will talk about the myth of Europa and the idea of Europe in the work of German author Heinrich Böll.

If you want to join, please, contact me at, and I’ll send you the zoom link. You can also write to the address on the flyer or use the QR code we generated.

We look forward to seeing many of you on Saturday. 

All the best 

Almut, with Rabea


We Welcome our New Member

Please let us introduce you to a new member Nicolas Detering:

Nicolas Detering is Professor of German Literature at the University of Berne. He received his PhD from the University of Freiburg with a study on early-modern discourses on Europe (Krise und Kontinent. Die Entstehung der deutschen Europa-Literatur in der Frühen Neuzeit). Before coming to Berne, he was Junior Professor at the University of Konstanz.

He specializes in Early-Modern literature as well as 19th century literature. His research interests include the theory of genres, the aesthetics of martyrdom, the narratology of hagiography, and the reception of medieval and early-modern Christian literature in Modernity.


Transmutations and Transgressions

We’d like to call your attention to the upcoming biennial conference of the International Society for Religion, Literature and Culture: Transmutations and Transgressions, to be held on the 15–18 September 2022 at the University of Chester, with keynote presentations by Elaine Scarry (Harvard), Monique Moultrie (Georgia State), and artist/photographer Sara Davidmann.

The conference description furnishes provocative definitions of the two terms:

Transmutation: the conversion of one element or substance into another; the transformation of material into idea or idea into material; praxis into theory or theory into praxis. The process by which the invisible is rendered visible. What structures of knowledge are changed or challenged by such transmutations? How do material, embodied, located knowledges challenge, destabilize or transgress epistemic hierarchies? 

Transgression: the action of passing over, or beyond; specifically, passing beyond boundaries set by, e.g., law, custom, or commandment. But whose law? The customs of which place? What power of command? 

By holding together both transmutation and transgression, pointing specifically towards the transgressive potentials implicit in the act of transmutation, we are particularly inviting sessions and papers which reflect upon the relationship between materiality, change, disruption, and power.

Formerly founded in 2000, the International Society for Religion, Literature and Culture has promoted the academic study of literature, religion, the arts, and theory through the collaboration of like-minded scholars, teachers, practitioners, and other parties with vested interest in these interlinking categories. Through its biennial conference, its designated website, and a close working relationship with the journal Literature and Theology (Oxford UP), the Society aims to encourage original research and publication, provide networks for collaborative endeavor, offer notice of relevant work, and support early career scholars pursuing work of an interdisciplinary nature.

Further information can be found on the society’s website:


Scholars of Literature and Religion (SOLAR) Network at Yale University

We would like to inform you about the Scholars of Literature and Religion (SOLAR) Network housed with the Rivendell Center for Theology and the Arts at Yale University in New Haven, CT. The network aims to connect rising post-graduate students with scholars and to foster collaboration between scholars.

For more information, click here, and/or send an email to


Book Series: Literature, Religion, and Postsecular Studies 

With this post, we would like to bring the book series Literature, Religion, and Postsecular Studies by Lori Branch to your attention. Hosted by The Ohio State University Press, the series publishes scholarship on the influence of religion on literature and of literature on religion from the 16th  century onward. Books in the series include studies of religious rhetoric or allegory; of the secularization of religion, ritual, and religious life; and of the emerging identity of postsecular studies and literary criticism. 

If you would like to find out more about the series, click here.


Postgraduate Study at the University of Edinburgh

We are thrilled to inform you about a new programme on Religion and Literature, housed within the School of Divinity of the University of Edinburgh. The programme offers deep and broad study of the relationship between all genres of literature and religious traditions, history, thought and practice. Its goal is to equip students to engage in the growing field of Religion and Literature from a variety of starting points and to understand the interaction between literature and religion from a range of wider contexts, including those of theology and the textual, historical and social scientific study of religions. Students have the opportunity to research and write a substantial dissertation, with the support of an academic supervisor, which will reflect your own interests and expertise. The programme is particularly aimed at students and professionals with an academic background in Literary Studies, Religious Studies or Theology who are keen to acquire a more in-depth knowledge of both disciplines in dialogue.

For more information, click here.


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

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


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

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 Further information can be found here.