The Kiss of the Muse (1860) Paul Cezanne

I ‘The Power of the Word: Poetry, Theology and Life’

The Power of the Word international Conference 1
17–18 June 2011
Heythrop College, University of London, UK.

Potw Logo Blue 100The first Power of the Word Conference was held in June 2011 at Heythrop College, University of London, UK and gathered about a hundred scholars from the UK, Continental Europe and the US. The conference was intended to both initiate and foster conversations among scholars and advanced students about interrelations between poetry on the one hand and theology, philosophy, ethics and lived experience on the other. Underlying aims were, first, to place literature and literary texts, rather than critical theories about literature, centre stage; secondly to make a case against instrumental uses of literature, as ‘handmaid’ to philosophy, theology, ethics or ideology, for example, and thirdly to offer young and early-career as well as established scholars an opportunity to present their work to a wider community of peers and experts. Keynote addresses focused both on theoretical issues--identifying a religious imagination, poetry as scripture and inspiration, poetry as prayer—and particular texts by Shakespeare, John Donne and George Herbert. Short-paper panels likewise presented studies of theoretical questions and particular texts and authors on a wide range of topics. For example:

  • Why poetry matters
  • Poetry, philosophy and theology
  • Mystical and devotional poetry
  • Poetry and sacred texts
  • Poetry, ethics and society
  • Imagination, faith and theology

Keynote speeches and a selection of papers from this conference, reworked for publication, were published in the collection Poetry and the Religious Imagination, edited by Francesca Bugliani Knox and David Lonsdale (1st ed. Ashgate 2015/ 2nd ed. Routledge 2016). This volume became the first in a series of books gathering together plenary addresses and selected papers from Power of the Word conferences.

Publication: Poetry and the Religious Imagination

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