Theodicy of Spirituality in Contemporary American Women’s Poetry--NeMLA 2016

Scarlett Cunningham's picture
Call for Papers
March 16, 2016 to March 20, 2016
Subject Fields: 
Women's & Gender History / Studies, Intellectual History, Religious Studies and Theology, Literature

Panel Description:

This panel seeks to emphasize the diversity of women’s spiritual experiences by showing how spiritual and religious identity intersect with other vectors of difference such as gender, race, class, age, sexuality, and ability in contemporary American women’s poetry. Most religions seek to reconcile the idea of human suffering with the existence of a loving God. However, men have traditionally held a disproportionate amount of power and authority in delineating doctrinal truths regarding theodicy in the world’s major religions.

Therefore, we are especially interested in papers that examine a poetic engagement of the often complicated relationship many women and others living at the margins of their respective faiths have to orthodox religion especially in light of the problem of theodicy. For the purposes of this panel contemporary poetry will be classified as poetry published after 1969.

Questions panelists may consider include but are not limited to:

  • How do contemporary poets wrestle with the problems of genocide, personal tragedy, illness, and disaster in light of the system of beliefs found in holy book religions?

  • How do contemporary poets write conversion and deconversion narratives in light of the problem of theodicy?

  • How do contemporary poets imagine the question of women’s sexual empowerment and disempowerment in relation to religious rituals and beliefs regarding suffering and divine embodiment?

  • How does contemporary poetry capture orthodox women performing orthodoxy differently or otherwise?

  • How does age, sexuality, class, or other fluid markers of identity influence spiritual and/or religious experience in contemporary poetry?

Submission Guidelines:

Submissions to the 47th Annual Northeast Modern Language Association Convention, March 17-20, 2016, in Hartfort, CT should include the author's full name, email address, and institutional affiliation.

350-500 word abstracts may be submitted by September 30, 2015 here:

Accepted panelists must register for the conference and be members of NeMLA by December 1, 2015.

Questions may be forwarded to Scarlett Cunningham at or Anne Babson at

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