CFP: Imaging the Ineffable: Representation and Reality in Religion and Film

 In Call for Papers, Uncategorized

Imaging the Ineffable: Representation and Reality in Religion and Film

*March 29th to March 31st, 2013*

Call for Papers:

2013 Interdisciplinary Humanities Graduate Student Conference

Deadline for Submissions: February 4th 2013

The Mahindra Humanities Center of Harvard University invites you to submit
paper abstracts for the 2013 Interdisciplinary Humanities Graduate Student
Conference on the topic of imaging the ineffable in religion and film. The
paradox of showing what cannot be shown is a perennial issue in the fields
of both Religion and Film Studies. In one of the most celebrated passages
of Buddhist scripture, for instance, the sage Vimalakirti is asked to
expound on the ultimate meaning of the Buddha’s teachings. Famously,
Vimalakirti responds with silence, for the Buddha’s teachings are beyond
words. In the same vein, the celebrated film critic and theorist Stanley
Cavell argued that the unique feature of the filmic medium lies in its
ability to show us what isn’t there; that is, to make absence present. This
conference focuses on the intersection of religion and film in their
aspirations to challenge the limits of signification. Papers are welcome
on any of the following topics:

· *The Representation of the Unrepresentable.* How do
different religious traditions negotiate the representation of the
unrepresentable? How do films presence absence or emptiness? How do films
reflect or express particular religious negotiations of the
unrepresentable? How might we examine the ways these concerns are
translated into various filmic techniques that can help us understand the
possibilities, limitations, and ethical ramifications of imaging the

· *Illusion and Reality.* Religion and film share a unique link by virtue
of the way that each specifically engages a tension between reality and
illusion. How can religious perspectives on the illusory nature of reality,
as well claims about the reality of illusion, inform views on the role and
relevance of film, itself a highly artificial and mediated form? How can
attention to the *medium *of film – ephemeral bursts of light flickering
rhythmically on a screen – be productive for thinking about the interplay
of illusion and reality, fiction and truth, artifice and authenticity in
religious contexts?

· *Experience and Embodiment. *In response to recent academic
shifts towards attending to issues of the senses, embodiment and
aesthetics, how might religion use film to approach the aesthetic, sensory
and embodied modes of religious experience? Conversely, how does film
engage modes of practice, devotion and so-called ‘religious’ or ‘spiritual’
experience? What are the epistemological consequences of an academic
approach that accounts for these sensory dimensions?

· Any of the above three topics in relationship to the films
of *Nathaniel Dorsky, Abbas Kiarostami, Claire Denis, Michael Haneke,
Robert Gardener, Krysztof Kieslowski, Stan Brakhage, Yasujiro Ozu, Alain
Resnais (Night and Fog), Ari Folman (Waltz with Bashir) or Satyajit Ray
(Pather Panchali) *are of particular interest, given that we will be
screening some of their work at the conference.

Paper abstracts should be approximately 500 words. Final presentation
papers should be in the range of 1000-3000 words and will be considered for
subsequent publication in the *Imaging the Ineffable: Representation and
Reality in Religion and Film* conference proceedings. Please see our
website *
* for details.**

Please email paper abstracts in MS Word format to and by February 4th 2013. Please include your full name, title,
institution, phone number, e-mail, and mailing address in the email and on
the paper abstract.

Lina Verchery and Zoe Kelly-Nacht

Committee on the Study of Religion
Harvard University
12 Quincy street
Cambridge, MA, 02138

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