I’m back from The Uses of “religion” in 19th Century Studies International Conference at Baylor University’s Armstrong Browning Library! I have to say that this was one of the most thrilling and fulfilling academic conference I’ve ever participated in. The atmosphere was welcoming and convivial. The hosts were warm and generous and treated us both like VIPs and at the same time like old friends. There was a real and lively scholarly exchange of ideas. I found the presentations fascinating, and learned a lot. The disciplines represented included religious studies, theology, philosophy, history, and especially Victorian literature–which was not an area with which I have a lot of familiarity, so I learned a lot. If you’re into 19th century studies and missed this conference, you really missed out. Hopefully this was only the first of many such conferences. For more on the conference including its schedule and other relevant info, you can go here to the main conference website. They also have put up a Digital Exhibit of the presenters, presentations, and materials from the library itself, which you can also access here. If you click on a presenter’s name it will take you to a page that includes a photo of the presenter, some information about the presenter, a brief summary of their presentation, and then some materials from the library that they thought related in some way to the content of the presentation. The page for my presentation is here. They video recorded the presentations, so some of the videos of the actual presentations will be available in the near future, so you’ll want to check back.
I have completed (more or less) my paper for the upcoming conference at Baylor. To spill the beans a little early, it appears that, in the works I examined prior to his excommunication in 1908, Loisy uses “religion” in a fairly unexceptional way, the way most of us use it today. There are some exceptions to this, but in general, his use of “religion” is that of a generic category, which includes such instantiations as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc. What is significant, is the broader history of this term; “religion” has not always been used this way. The work of scholars like Talal Asad (e.g., Genealogies of Religion), William Cavanaugh (e.g., The Myth of Religious Violence), and Ernst Feil (especially his 4 volume Religio) are important contributions to the history of the development of the understanding of religion. More to come.