A conference that will explore the ritual and liturgical potential of poetry, both within and beyond religion.
A Cumberland Lodge residential conference
Speakers include:Conference description:
Religion is back in the news. Minority faiths and unchurched spirituality are thriving. There is a rising interest in the spiritual possibilities of art. This conference explores poetry’s potential to take centre stage in people’s lives, to speak directly to their most pressing personal, existential and civic concerns, to challenge and to change them. Many decades ago now Virginia Woolf wrote, ‘some people go to priests; others to poetry’ – poetry here is kin to confession or therapy, cleansing troubled souls through rituals of speaking and sharing. But what of poetry’s potential as an agent of difficult spiritual struggle – the struggle for virtue, or the struggle against a perceived wrong or adversary, or even against evil itself? Religion and poetry, now as ever, cannot be restricted to pastoral restoratives and peace.
The conference will investigate a poem’s capacity to address or embody extreme experience or ultimate truth. And it will ask whether poetry is an essentially private thing, ministering to the individual self or soul, or whether it has a growing capacity to express community values, as evidenced by recent responses to moments of national grief.
The conference is associated with ‘The Faerie Queene Now’, a major new creative project, funded by the AHRC / ESRC Religion and Society programme, which brings together artists, scholars and theologians and is inspired by the great neglected epic of English literature, Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene.
Philip Howard in The Times once described poetry as the national pastime of the British people, more popular than football!Is such a remark hyperbole or truth? Poets, priests, sociologists, teachers, students and footballers are among those who should find this conference of special value.
The Faerie Queene Now will feature exclusive performances and discussions of its work-in-progress, which will provide not just lively entertainment but a rich test-case for its more general concerns.
The Faerie Queene Now project and Cumberland Lodge gratefully acknowledge the support of the AHRC / ESRC Religion and Society Programme