Saturday 31 October 2009

Some not-to-miss AAR sessions

I've already mentioned the apocalyptic theology sessions at AAR next week. If you're lucky enough to be in Montreal, here are some other not-to-be-missed sessions:

Sacramental Poetics (chaired by Monica Miller). Like liturgy, sacramental poetry signifies more than it says, through image, sound, and time, in language that takes the hearer beyond each of these elements. Rather than being lost in secularization, this sacramental function survives through poetic evocations of transcendence. Papers by John Milbank, Kevin Hart, Virgil Brower, Hent de Vries, and Regina Schwartz. (I'm also listed in the programme, but unfortunately I had to pull out: especially disappointing since Kevin Hart is my favourite contemporary poet, and I would have loved to meet him.) For more on "sacramental poetics", see Regina Schwartz's new post at the Immanent Frame.

Karl Barth Society: Panel Discussion of Orthodox and Modern: Studies in the Theology of Karl Barth, by Bruce L. McCormack. Papers by Nicholas M. Healy and Garrett Green, with a response by Bruce McCormack. (For more on this book, see my review, and the new review by Matthias Gockel.)

Disenchantment and Reenchantment in Political Theology: Diagnosing the Crisis of Liberalism. With the following papers: Benjamin Lazier, "Miracles and the Crisis of Liberalism between the Wars and Beyond"; Kurt Anders Richardson, "Legislation and Affection: On the Anthropological Dimensions of a Political Theology"; Bruce Rosenstock, "Hegel and Modern Political Theology"; Robert Yelle, "Liberalism Has No Charisma: Critiques of the Political Theology of Modernity in Max Weber, Carl Schmitt, and Philip Rieff"; response by John Milbank.

Creation and Negation: Apophasis and the Theology of Creation (chaired by Denys Turner). This panel advances constructive insights regarding a paradox in the theology of creation — precisely in virtue of being created, every existing being that we encounter flows from an infinite abyss of inexhaustible unknowability. This corollary of the doctrine of creation ex nihilo suggests that on the “other side” of every creature lies sheer nonexistence. And this itself is worthy of elucidation, for it underscores the vulnerability and graciousness inherent in the existence of each creature. But the panel pushes more deeply into the apophasis at the heart of creaturely existence. On the one hand, we develop a theology of the creatures by uncovering their apophatic depths as they flow from the inexhaustible mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation; and we also display the fruitfulness of this apophatic vision by unfolding its significance for our understandings of creaturely being, human flourishing, and the critical understanding of nature today. Papers by Sarah Coakley, Kevin L. Hughes, Mark A. McIntosh and Willemien Otten.

Theological Interventions: Love and Kenosis (chaired by Christine E. Gudorf). With a paper by Dennis King Keenan, "On the Genealogy of Love"; and Jodi Belcher, "Subversion through Subjection: A Feminist Reconsideration of Kenosis in Christology and Christian Discipleship". This one sounds like a terrific paper (h/t AUFS) – here's the abstract:

This paper reformulates Christological kenosis and its implications for Christian discipleship in light of the confusion surrounding “self-emptying” language and the painful ramifications of its prescription in Christianity, particularly for women. The central thesis claims that understanding kenosis in terms of subjection not only subverts the traditional, simplistic construal of self-emptying as loss of self, but also provides a recapitulation of kenosis as a transformative and empowering re-identification in God that feminist theology can plausibly engage and affirm. To develop this argument, the paper adopts an interdisciplinary approach, initially giving a constructive critique of Sarah Coakley’s conception of Christ’s kenosis as the concurrence of divine power and human vulnerability. This evaluation of Coakley is then supplemented with Judith Butler’s philosophical account of power and subject formation in the process of subjection. The argument concludes by proposing a constructive contemporary retrieval of kenosis as subversive subjection.
The Promise of Scripture and Phenomenology (chaired by Kevin Hart). How does scripture give itself? What would it mean to treat scripture as a phenomenon? Is anything lost by thinking of scripture as an historical or literary object? This panel will explore the possibility of a phenomenological approach to scripture. Papers by Chris Hackett, Petra Turner Harvey, Adam Wells, H. Peter Kang, Martin Kavka and Nicholas Adams.

The Church in Post-Christian Society. Papers by Thomas Hughson, Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, David Anderman, Steffen Lösel and Gilles Routhier. Also this paper by Mark Chapman, which sounds very good:
This paper discusses theological implications for the English churches as they recognise their minority status. By analysing reports from the 1960s to the present on the Church’s response to changing religious demography, I outline two responses to religious decline. The first amounts to a nostalgic longing for establishment. However, the assumption that all people were really Christian, whether they liked it or not, is nothing more than a piece of wishful thinking. The second solution promotes a pluralism which emerges from the recognition of minority status. This model was advocated by a number of more radical writers and theologians including Valerie Pitt and Donald Mackinnon. It has recently been revitalised by Rowan Williams. Becoming a minority is part of obedience to the Gospel: the roughness and complexity of Christian discipleship are hardly likely to appeal to the majority.
Whither the "Death of God": A Continuing Currency? (chaired by Lissa McCullough). Papers by Thomas Altizer and Slavoj Žižek, plus audience discussion.

The Apocalyptic Turn in Theology (chaired by Damon McGraw). Papers by Thomas Altizer, Catherine Keller, Graham Ward and Cyril O'Regan.

OK, I'm sure there'll be other good sessions too – these are the ones that stood out to me. If you know of any other interesting papers or panels, feel free to leave the details in a comment.


Brian Lugioyo said...

In addition to this good list here are some that I think are also worth going to:

John Webster's paper on Torrance and Scripture at the TF Torrance Fellowship Friday afternoon no doubt will be excellent.

Leron Shults is giving a paper for Theology & Continental Philosophy on Sat.

History of Christianity Section on Sunday at 1pm with Hillerbrand, Heitzenrater, Anne CLark, John Corrigan & Amanda Porterfield is sure to please.

And if your Cuban like me or want to know about some of the history of Cuban Religions there is the Religion in Latin America and Caribbean Group on Monday that is discussing the Study of Cuban Religions Fifty years after the Revolution.

And most important - the bookstalls.

Bruce L. McCormack said...

Dear Ben,

I'm afraid the program was printed before I could actually come to a decision whether I could attend the AAR or not. I told George Hunsinger when he first announced to me that a panel discussion of my new book would take place at both the AAR and SBL that I had no plans to attend either one. I simply had too much work on my plate - and I had hopes of attending a Barth conference in Holland in the spring (which would take up the whole of my travel budget for this academic year). When the latter plan became more firm, it was evident to me that I could not go to Montreal. But by that point in time (September) the program had already been printed.

I have written an open letter to the Barth Society (to be read at the meeting of the Society) to explain my absence and to thank contributors. If any challenges should be raised by the papers given there, those presenting them may be sure that I will show my gratitude by giving them a response in some academic forum or another. That's the best I can do at this time.

Bruce L. McCormack said...

I meant to say, if any "new" challenges should should be raised, etc. Should I receive challenges already familiar to me, I will make every effort to point contributors and readers to where they might find my answers to them in already existing essays.

With best wishes to all,


Ben Myers said...

Thanks, Bruce, for that clarification.

Joshua said...

I'd add J. Kameron Carter's paper critiquing Milbank and R.O. There is also a discussion of his Race: A Theological Account in one of the pre-meetings.

If people are interested in Talal Asad or Islam and Secularism, there is a interesting section on Saturday morning on Asad's work and a discussion between Soroush and Ramadan on Islam and the Secular on Sunday night.

And in an act of self promotion: The session on Calvin and Ecclesiology on Monday afternoon includes interesting papers on T.F. Torrance, Calvin and priestly celibacy, Calvinism in Holland, Roman Catholic appropriations of Calvin and my paper on Preaching and Ecclesiology.

Unknown said...


When are the Carter sessions, do you know?


Anthony Paul Smith said...

Nate, if you read the blog you supposedly guest write at you'd have seen it!

Unknown said...


If you're referring to the AUFS approved sessions, I didn't see the Carter sessions listed there. Perhaps I missed something.

Joshua said...

The panel discussion is Friday around noon. The individual paper is
"Creation, Imperialism, and the Aesthetic Imagination: Radical Orthodoxy's Postcolonial Melancholy" on Monday at 1.

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