University of Notre Dame London Centre,
1-4 Suffolk Street, London, SW1Y 4HG, United Kingdom
25-26 September 2015
Keynote Speakers: Professor Richard Canning, University of Northampton; Professor Martin Stannard, University of Leicester; Professor Stephen Schloesser, S.J., Loyola University Chicago
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Deadline for submissions: 11 May 2015
Proposals should be emailed to:

In Jacques Maritain’s endnotes to his Art et Scholastique, citations from Thomas Aquinas sit side-by-side with extracts from Jean Cocteau, Pierre Reverdy and accounts of Cezanne. Yet, this creative tension has proved difficult to reconcile with existing assumptions about the avant-garde: religion can be construed as one more bourgeois prejudice from which the artist needs to free him or herself; or else artistic productions can be accorded a quasi-religious reverence that circumvents the need for institutional religion. Failing that, and thanks to the unacknowledged influence of various secularisation theories, one might think it impossible to be forward-thinking and yet hold religious views.

The key historical event around which these ideas coalesce is the 1907 Papal Bull, Pascendi Dominici Gregis which condemned a range of new intellectual movements under a single heading: “modernism”. While apparently inauspicious for the creative tension this conference plans to examine – one recent critical study has suggested that literary modernism took its impetus from a positive appropriation of the term from Catholic discourse – attempts to steer clear of suspicious topics gave rise to wide-ranging discussion of aesthetics within Catholic circles.

Viewed more widely, there are numerous instances in English and French decadence, the artistic communities centred on Eric Gill at Ditchling and Capel-y-ffin and the crop of post-war British Catholic novelists – alongside the work of figures such as Pasolini, Gaudí and Marechal – where artistic experimentation has become manifest as an outpouring of intense Catholic renewal. Recognition of this phenomenon demands a far-reaching revision to the narratives told about twentieth-century artistic endeavour and, indeed, a re-consideration of the way in which Catholicism has come to position itself in relation to society.

This two-day conference will initiate this revisionary process by foregrounding the stimulus Catholic thought has provided for artistic experimentation, across the globe, from the 1890s onwards.