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The ICLA Research Committee on Religion, Ethics, and Literature


This site is updated periodically and concerns all information regarding the Research Committee and its related activities for the future. The title above, Fault Lines of Modernity, refers to the committee's inaugural conference hosted by SF State in 2014. All inquiries about the committee should be directed to Professor Kitty Millet ( For more information about the International Comparative Literature Association (ICLA), visit their website.

This committee examines global literary phenomena as instances of subject formation in order to think new relationships between religion, ethics, and literature. It investigates the philosophical and theoretical roles of religion and ethics in literature, as well as explores the fraught relationship between secularism and post-secularism as these ideas emerge aesthetically. While the examination of religious imagery, symbolism, and the role of myth is not our purview, the signifiers of religion as they motivate "an ethical turn" remains a key concern.

The committee has had a busy three years. We have had events in the U.S,, India, Germany, the Netherlands, and Austria. At each event, we've seen our membership increase to the extent that we can no longer post membership in one column on our front page. After our certification in 2014, the committee began actively to recruit new members from related disciplines outside of comparative literature. More than half of our membership are faculty and students at universities outside of the United States. We are a diverse cohort with members at every rank within higher education. To view membership, please follow the link in the Membership Information column.

Events below reflect the immediate activities of the group. For a year by year summary, peruse the Year by Year column to the left.

2018 Events:

CFP for ACLA 2019, at Georgetown University, March 7-10.

Religion, Ethics, and the Secular in Literature: Intermediality, Intervention, or Conflict of the Faculties? Sponsored seminar by the ICLA Committee on Religion, Ethics, and Literature.  

In Midrash and Literature (1986), Hartman and Budick argue that literature, informed by a secular form of midrash or commentary, produces an “intermediary space” in which subjects inhabit “a whole universe of allusive textuality” (xi). Their argument freights literature as a world in flux, characterized by scripting and rescripting, a constant shift between aesthetic registers. If we extend Hartman and Budick’s literary “universe of allusive textuality,” literature represents a kind of “unboundedness” because it exists without a legislative principle structuring it. It is a transgressive antinomial space so to speak.

 This perspective suggests that literature does not necessarily reduce to a “conflict” between the faculties, that its recuperation, or its repositioning of religious signifiers, narratives, and principles, produces something necessary to the subject. Is it possible that literature might speak to subjective experience in a different key altogether so that the unlegislated produces multiple access points or registers for new modes of being? Does this “act of literature” suggest an ethical orientation?

Sponsored by the ICLA Research Committee on Religion, Ethics, and Literature, this seminar examines literature’s “actions” in relation to religion and ethics in order to ask whether literary representation must be reducible to an adversarial instrument, antagonistically positioned against the “faculties,” or can its recuperation of other media, principles and concepts from these disciplines transform the ways we think about epistemologies in general? In other words, does literary space reject religion and/or ethics because it is necessary to prevent the overreach of these disciplines into the aesthetic? Or does literature’s use of discrete aspects of these disciplines redeem the relationship between them? The seminar seeks comparative papers addressing the topic. Papers should focus on examples from at least two different linguistic traditions. We are especially interested in essays that examine literature as intermedial expression, and/or that focus on how literature synthesizes the signifiers, narratives, and principles from ethics and religion to produce new subject positions.

In order to submit a paper for consideration in an ACLA seminar, please visit the ACLA website. For any other information relevant to your submission of an abstract to this seminar, feel free to contact the committee chair, Professor Kitty Millet.



CFP for religions, "Jewish Secular Culture."

This special issue of the journal, religions, seeks both theoretical and material culture analyses of Jewish secular culture broadly construed. As the guest editor, I am particularly interested in essays examining aspects of Jewish writing that open up new thinking about Jewish secular culture globally.

Publication date for the Committee's first publication, Fault Lines of Modernity, the Fractures and Repairs of Religion, Ethics, and Literature (London and New York: Bloomsbury) is September, 2018. 

At the recent business meeting during the ACLA meeting, we welcomed seven new members to the committee, bringing us to 71 members overall. The outcomes of that meeting are below.

I. Scope of the committee and updates on its current projects 

A. Scope

1. The organizing idea for the committee. The committee comprises scholars working in comparative literature and related disciplines who have an ongoing interest in literature's relationship to religion and ethics, either disciplinarily or formally. We are not associated with any one religion by design. We are not a platform for a sectarian perspective either.

2. Plans for governance for the future. Since the majority of people present were joining the committee for the first time, Professor Millet tabled this point. However, there will be a need to consider either new leadership or augmenting existing it after the next cycle of voting at the Executive Council meeting for the ICLA. With the committee becoming quite large, we should consider regional representatives at the very least.

B. Journal: plans for the Journal have had a setback. The publisher and Professor Millet cannot agree on a division of labor. If you have any ideas, please feel free to contact Professor Millet.

C. Book with Bloomsbury: the Book, Fault Lines of Modernity is currently in page proofs. It is due out in September of this year and is already on sale at Amazon, Bloomsbury, and other online retailers.

II. Exploration of Regional meetings for the coming year 

A. Past events: In the past three years of our existence, we have had one dedicated event, the inaugural event in SF in 2014, and subequent related meetings in India, Germany, in addition to our sponsored panels at ICLA and ACLA. We normally embed panels within the larger comparative literature meetings of national associations. For many members, national meetings provide a level of participation in whcih they do not have to seek funding from their departments because either the venue has provided all of it (Germany), or a portion of it (India).. While these gifts are greatly appreciated, regional meeting sites do not have to provide any support for committee members beyond hosting the event for scholars to attend. These events can be 1 day symposia, mini-conferences, or other kinds of meetings for members in proximity to the venue.

B. Suggestions for future: As noted above, we are interested in the committee identifying new regional and/or national locations for committee events. We are especially interested in finding venues for members from Central Europe, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East. If you would like to consider taking on a regional event, please submit your proposals to Professor Millet as soon as possible.

C. Guidelines: Guidelines depend on the venue. The host institution does not have to provide any support for lodging or travel although if the region encompasses a large area, and hosting institutions want members outside the region to attend, lodging is always appreciated. For truly regional events, funding is not necessary. For mini-conferences, invitations though to scholars outside the area, and the committee is encouraged.

III. Status of the ICLA Congress for 2019:

A. Location: At the Vienna business meeting of the EC during ACLA, the EC membership voted to review Shenjen's offer of their university as host for the ICLA Congress. However, since that initial agreement, it appears that there is no longer an accepted site. Hopefully, though, after the EC meeting this summer, we will have a sense of where things stand for the 2019 meeting.

B. Proposing sessions: Proposing seminar streams for ICLA is fairly simple and quite like the ACLA's portal. In the Fall, the ICLA portal should become available for uploading proposals and they will have ample information at that time.

















Publication Details for the Committee Research Volume:

The volume is in the final draft stage. The volume should be in press in 2018.

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