15.05. 2018


30.06. 2018

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Over the past few decades a richly textured collection of scholarship has explored a range of questions connected with the relationship between religion and Enlightenment, the rise of sites and arenas marked as secular, the development of secular discourses and institutions, and the influence of Enlightenment thought on religion. Over these same decades, scholars in colonial, post-colonial, and indigenous studies have refined our collective understanding of the diverse activities that constitute human engagement with the divine. This work has done much to illuminate the roles that practices and beliefs often categorized as “religious” played in intercultural contact and conquest, but also in the generating of ideas and discourses at the core of the European Enlightenment. This conference, co-hosted by the Interdisciplinary Centre for Study of the European Enlightenment at Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg and the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma, calls for closer scrutiny of a set of questions that build upon this previous work. All of these questions involve the place of religion in the Enlightenment, with attention to “place” as literal setting or geographical location but also as metaphor for its position amidst a range of discussions and developments in this era. Simultaneous attentiveness to literal and metaphorical “place” will, it is hoped, enhance our understanding of how individuals and communities in the eighteenth century understood themselves to be shaped by a variety of human interactions with and understandings of the sacred.

Where exactly was religion in the Enlightenment, and how do our understandings of religion’s place in this era shape our definitions of the Enlightenment? Where did inhabitants of the eighteenth century find the practices and beliefs that they understood to involve interaction with the divine? In what settings did religious expression unfold, and how did notions of the sacred shape understandings of boundary, location, and place? How did the practices and ideas we today would mark as religious migrate in this era, whether from one culture or physical site to another, or across previously acknowledged boundaries within hearts, minds, behaviors, communities, and notions of self? Finally, how does religious activity, feeling, or thought contribute to the conceptualization of place and space in this era?

Halle’s history combines in a very special manner the issues that the conference wants to address. The city is not only the first centre of German Enlightenment, embedded in a European network, but also the site of the Francke Foundation, an educational institution imbued with protestant faith and the affective forms of devotion associated with Lutheran pietism, whose missionary work reached as far as India. Faithful to this twofold tradition, our conference will bring together scholars from several countries and areas of study whose work advances contemplation of the above questions. Framing this multi-faceted interrogation of religion’s place in the Enlightenment will be a conversation among the conference’s participants about where the study of religion is situated at this moment in and across several disciplines. In order to advance this dialogue, panels will deliberately bring together scholars from different disciplines.

This conference will, it is hoped, expand our understanding not only of where religious settings, endeavors, feelings, and beliefs were placed in the eighteenth century and where religion is situated today in several scholarly disciplines, but also of what topics, texts, settings and events might productively be understood as to constitute or define the European Enlightenment. The way in which we understand Enlightenment depends to a great extent on the place which we grant religion within it. In which way does our concept of Enlightenment change, when the place(s) of religion are defined more accurately and in more detail?

The conference’s languages will be English and German. Participants will be asked to provide an abstract, outline, and set of keywords before the conference. These materials will be distributed during the conference in order to facilitate bilingual communication.

Please send paper proposals of no more than 200 words along with a short (2 page) curriculum vitae to IZEA, Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg:

The deadline for proposals is 30 June 2018 and the program committee will communicate its decisions by 20 July 2018.


Daniel Fulda is Professor for German literature at Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg and director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for European Enlightenment Studies at Halle University. His recent publications include „Die Geschichte trägt der Aufklärung die Fackel vor.“ Eine deutsch-französische Bild-Geschichte, Halle 2017.With reference to the conference topic, cf. „ Aufklärung“, in: Daniel Weidner (ed.): Handbuch Literatur und Religion. Stuttgart, Weimar 2016, p. 147–154.

Laura M. Stevens is Chapman Associate Professor of English at the University of Tulsa and Past President of the Society of Early Americanists. She will be a Fulbright Scholar at Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg during April-July 2019. She is the author of The Poor Indians: British Missionaries, Native Americans, and Colonial Sensibility (University of Pennsylvania, 2004), and her second book manuscript is titled „Friday’s Tribe: Eighteenth-Century English Missionary Fantasies“.

Sabine Volk-Birke is Professor Emerita of English at Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg and member of IZEA (Interdisciplinary Centre for European Enlightenment Studies) at Halle. In her research she has focused on the relation between literature and religion, with recent publications on Handel’s libretti, on prayer as cultural practice, and on trans-national as well as trans-denominational adaptations of devotional texts. She has co-edited Early Modern Prayer, vol. 3.2 of The Journal of Religious History, Literature and Culture (University of Wales Press, 2017), articles in JECS and SECC are in print.

Source and further information: H/SOZ/KULT, Link (15 May 2018)