Trying to Say ‘God’: Reenchanting the Literary Imagination

June 22-24, 2017

University of Notre Dame


In a time when traditional religion is viewed as suspect, passé, or offensive, many authors and artists are uncomfortable talking about their personal religion or spirituality, while others grope for new ways to say “God.” They attempt to articulate an amorphous truth in an “elsewhere beyond language,” in the words of Fanny Howe, but use language to explore their way toward it.

The Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts at the University of Notre Dame—together with and the blog Sick Pilgrim—will bring together both well-known and emerging writers, artists and musicians who are wrestling with religious experience and traditions in new ways. We will feature authors in all literary genres: poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction and memoir, fantasy, and science fiction.

Our goal is to reach beyond the usual academic interpreters of culture and appeal to a much broader audience of contemporary working writers and artists of faith. In fact, our hope is to make this gathering a regular biennial event.


In addition to readings and panel presentations, a sacred music performance featuring the work of living composers such as James McMillan and Arvo Pärt will be presented by Notre Dame’s Sacred Music Program. Notre Dame’s Snite Museum of Art will host tours and a presentation on icon writing by noted iconographer Joseph Malham.