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A Mellon-ISLA Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Workshop

From the foundational Christian story of Saul of Tarsus struck down from his horse on the road to Damascus to Nixon adviser Chuck Colson’s memoir Born Again, narratives of conversion mark decisive moments in the lives of those who write about them. These stories take many forms: the forced conversions of the indigenous peoples of the Americas and converso Jews in medieval Spain; the voluntary conversions of Ruth, Augustine, and Constantine; the spurious conversion tale of Darwin’s deathbed conversion and renunciation of the theory of evolution.  Though there are of course many other kinds of religious narrative, the conversion story is powerfully evocative.  Some are stories of personal transformation and interior spiritual renewal, while others show the effects of political oppression and religious conflict.

With the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, we plan to bring together a group of interested graduate students to form a workshop under the rubric of “Literature and Conversion.”  The reasons for such a workshop are compelling and include the following:

  • To stimulate conversation around the topic of religion and literature across the disciplines.
  • To provide a forum for graduate students to get feedback for their ideas from a larger, academic audience.
  • To foster a sense of interdisciplinary collegiality among new and established scholars who are interested in the intersection of religion and literature.
  • To provide a friendly setting for exposure of ideas and thereby encourage constructive scholarship.
  • To continue to develop Notre Dame as the premier institution for the interdisciplinary study of religion and literature.

Each meeting of this monthly seminar will focus on a different time period and/or geographical location. This diversity will draw on the research of those in departments such as Theology, Classics, English, Romance Languages, Philosophy, and History. Each session will have both graduate student and faculty involvement.

If you have questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact us.


John Marchese and Deborah Forteza

Ph.D. in Literature Program, University of Notre Dame

Email: conversion.workshop.nd@gmail.com

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