Description of the Committee on Religions, Ethics, and Literature

In 2014, scholars working within comparative literature in several countries came together to form a research committee whose goal was to identify points at which literature intersected with religion and ethics and to speculate on why these intersections offered productive areas of inquiry. Our focus—the examination of the subjective and objective spaces produced by the disciplines’ convergence—prompted a group of essays posing questions, then, about the need to reimagine, rethink, and reconceive the harmony or disharmony of these three disciplines in relation to each other. Consequently, we asked whether the three disciplines’ convergence warranted new ideas of the aesthetic, of the religious, and of the ethical?

This research committee investigates the philosophical and theoretical role of religion and ethics in literature, as well as explores the fraught relationship between secularism, post-secularism, as these ideas emerge aesthetically. While the examination of religious imagery, symbolism and the role of myth will not be the purview of this committee, the signifiers of religion in as much as they motivate “an ethical turn” in the text is a key concern. The committee seeks to address the significant lack of work done on the ethical dimension to be found in theory and literature itself. Although the current research agenda concentrates on several questions and interests from a Western perspective, we recognize this “reality’s” limitations and expect the scheme of the committee to expand globally in different directions. The committee will consider ways to generate conferences and research projects that look out from non-Western cultural complexes/concerns and we will consider other perspectives on the phenomena of religion and ethics in literature. Our most recent research project is the publication of a selection of the papers from our inaugural conference, “Fault Lines of Modernity: New Contexts for Religion, Ethics, and Literature,” convened at San Francisco State University, June 2014.