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Autumn conference 2018

The next conference will be on Saturday 3 November 2018 at Corpus Christi College, Oxford

The Rhetoric of Prayer

Call for Papers

There are various and sometimes conflicting scriptural and theological definitions of prayer. What rhetorical style is apt when your audience is God? How are tensions between e.g. God as judge, or prosecutor, as advocate, saviour or father dealt with? Who indeed of the Trinity is to be addressed? We may consider prayer before and after the Reformation – Protestant prayer guides drew on Catholic predecessors – or the difference between public and private prayer, and how prayers connect aspirations and outcomes, words and deeds.

In the literary context written prayers are likely to be the focus at our conference. What kind of communication model for prayer might we invoke, and how is it to be distinguished from meditation or verbal expressions of ecstasy?

For the Middle Ages there is a dearth of scholarship on prayer as distinct from liturgy. Psalters, liturgical books and litanies of saints are plentiful and have been well edited. But relatively little attention is given to informal or personal prayer, despite evidence that people prayed often and with fervour. Records of prayer appear in verse and prose throughout the period, from Bede to Margery Kempe. So is medieval prayer different in kind from modern prayer?

 A well-known poem by George Herbert, ‘Prayer (1)’, encapsulates in memorable phrases a two-way process: an utterance of ‘the soul in paraphrase’, perhaps bringing ‘something understood’. When the person praying allows us to overhear, as it were, what might be our response as readers? Are the elaborations of rhetoric or poetic form in prayers accidents, or aspects of the essence? What assumptions can we make, from the prayers we read, about the circumstances and experiences of their composition, about their theology? Donne in a letter preferred thanksgiving to petition, and praise to prayer. Coleridge remarked that prayer can be seeking an alignment of the subject’s will with God’s.

Select bibliography

Papers proposed should have a reading time of about 20-25 minutes and be offered for subsequent publication in The Glass.

Your proposal should give a provisional title, should state in a few words how you will tackle your topic, and give brief information about your background.

The deadline for offers (email Dr Roger Kojecky, secretary@clsg.org) is 31 May 2018.

Members and non-members welcome.

CLSG Autumn Conference 2017

CLSG: exploring Christian and Biblical themes in literature



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The Christian Literary Studies Group in association with the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship