Conference to Highlight Contributions of Catholics to Literary Canon

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New York, arguably the capital of both American Catholicism and American literary culture, will see the two scenes come together on April 27, as Fordham hosts the three-day-long 2017 Catholic Literary Imagination Conference.

The conference, hosted by the Curran Center for American Catholic Studies, will bring to Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus  writers from around the country whose works reflect their Catholic heritage, sometimes explicitly, and sometimes unconsciously.

Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, writer and acting director of the Curran Center, said the goal of the conference is to build on the success of the first Catholic Imagination conference held in 2015 at the University of Southern California, and to celebrate our local incarnations of the Catholic imagination. The program at Fordham will highlight the contributions of the New York, Jesuit, and Fordham communities, with an eye toward the future.

“When most people talk about the Catholic imagination in scholarship, they look back at Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, and Thomas Merton, who are all great American Catholic writers,” she said.

“But the fact is, they’re dead, and they’ve left a wonderful legacy of books, but we need to forge our own literary legacy by recognizing and celebrating living Catholic writers.”

In addition to keynote addresses by Dana Gioia, Ron Hansen, Mary Gordon, and Alice McDermott, the conference will feature panel discussions on topics such as “Catholics Writing for Stage and Screen,”  “Beyond The Sopranos: The Ethnic Catholic Imagination,” and “New York Novelists: The Voice of the Boroughs.”

O’Donnell said the list of presenters is deliberately expansive, and includes writers who were raised Catholic but who may not consciously think of themselves as  Catholic writers.

“Some acknowledge their Catholicism, recognize it, and claim it. Others are in a very embattled relationship with their Catholicism and resist it,” she said. “But that tension produces interesting literature.”

“They’re all writers whose world view is shaped in some way by the Christian story of sin, death, judgement and redemption, and it enters into their work whether they’re conscious of it or not.”

The event is open to public. To register, visit the conference website. There is no registration fee for Fordham students, staff, and faculty.

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