[Msa-discuss] CfP: The Unorthodox Orthodoxy: Catholicism, Modernisms and the Avant-Garde, London, 25-26 September 2015

Jamie Callison Jamie.Callison at uib.no
Fri Mar 27 14:31:41 EDT 2015

Call for Papers:

University of Notre Dame London Centre,
1-4 Suffolk Street, London, SW1Y 4HG, United Kingdom
25-26 September 2015
Keynote Speakers: Professor Richard Canning, University of Northampton; 
Professor Martin Stannard, University of Leicester; Professor Stephen 
Schloesser, S.J., Loyola University Chicago
Deadline for submissions: 11 May 2015
Proposals should be emailed to: avantgardecatholicism at gmail.com

In Jacques Maritain’s endnotes to his ‘Art et Scholastique’, citations 
from Thomas Aquinas sit side-by-side with extracts from Jean Cocteau, 
Pierre Reverdy and accounts of Cezanne. Avant-garde artistic theories 
and the Catholic tradition are energetically yoked or held in tension by 
an apparently innocuous “et”. Yet, for all the disagreement about what 
constitutes the avant-garde, there is a remarkable consensus as to its 
antithetical relationship with organised religion, justified by a 
variety of reasons: religious sentiment is construed as an aspect of 
bourgeois society against which the avant-garde rebelled; the acts of 
poiesis upon which the avant-garde centred is accorded a quasi-religious 
status that negates the role of institutional religion; or thanks to the 
unacknowledged influence of various secularisation theories, critics 
assume it is impossible to be forward-thinking and yet hold religious views.

The key historical event around which these ideas coalesce is the 1907 
Papal Bull, ‘Pascendi Dominici Gregis’ which condemned a range of new 
intellectual movements under a single heading: “modernism”. A recent 
critical argument has suggested that literary “modernism” – the peer of 
“avant-garde” in demarking the artistic experimentation that this 
conference aims to address – took its impetus from a positive 
appropriation of the term from Catholic discourse. This would suggest 
that the relationship between Catholicism and the avant-garde could only 
ever be negative and unidirectional; with the Church lining up as one of 
the forces from which an artist must liberate him or herself. And yet, 
while apparently inauspicious for the creative tensions this conference 
plans to examine, attempts to steer clear of proscribed topics gave rise 
to wide-ranging discussions of aesthetics within Catholic circles.

Studies over the last decade: Ellis Hanson’s ‘Decadence and 
Catholicism’, Stephen Schloesser’s ‘Jazz-Age Catholicism’ and Rowan 
Williams’s ‘Grace and Necessity’ have outlined numerous instances where 
the relationship between Catholicism and the avant-garde – like that 
evident between the text and the footnotes in Maritain – has been 
mutually enriching, often in particular periods: English and French 
decadence, the interwar French Catholic intellectual scene and the 
artistic communities centred on Eric Gill at Ditchling and Capel-y-ffin. 
Recognition of this phenomenon demands a far-reaching revision to the 
narratives currently told about twentieth-century artistic endeavour 
and, indeed, a re-consideration of the way in which Catholicism has come 
to position itself in relation to society.

This two-day conference will initiate the revisionary process by 
foregrounding the stimulus Catholic thought has provided for 
experimentation across the arts from the 1890s onwards. Taking up the 
international resonance of the ‘avant-garde’, the conference organisers 
invite paper proposals (300 words) that engage with these issues from a 
European and global perspective – in the work of figures such as Gaudí, 
Marechal and Pasolini – as well as those that address the Anglophone and 
French writers who will serve as the subjects of the keynotes.
Participants may wish (while not being required) to focus on one or more 
of the following themes:

Single author/ artists/ movements studies including but not limited to: 
Djuna Barnes, Charles Baudelaire, Henri Bergson, Roy Campbell, G.K. 
Chesterton, the Ditchling Community, Ernest Dowson, T.S. Eliot, Ronald 
Firbank, Antoni Gaudí, David Gascoyne, Eric Gill, Graham Greene, Gerard 
Manly Hopkins, Joris-Karl Huysmans, Lionel Johnson, David Jones, James 
Joyce, Wyndham Lewis, Leopoldo Marechal, Jacques Maritain, Olivier 
Messiaen, Flannery O'Connor, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Charles Péguy, Ezra 
Pound, Muriel Spark, Edith Stein, Evelyn Waugh, Simone Weil.

Historical issues: Catholicism and literary decadence; creative 
responses to ‘Pascendi Dominici Gregis’; changes to the notion of an 
avant-garde Catholicism following Vatican II.

Theoretical consideration: modernism and religion, modernism and 
decadence, sacramental poetics, theological aesthetics.

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