Trying to Say 'God': Re-enchanting Catholic Literature

Location: DeBartolo Classroom Building, University of Notre Dame

For years the Catholic intelligentsia has debated the causes of a dearth of Catholic literature, lamenting the end of the "golden age" of Catholic writing and the days of O'Connor, Percy, Merton, et. al. "Catholic literary culture today might best be described as a funeral for multiple corpses. This, for living Catholic writers, makes for a rather depressing set of circumstances to enter into," wrote Kaya Oakes in an essay for America Magazine in 2014. We, the founders of the Trying to Say God conference, agree with Oakes that the problem isn't a lack of serious, talented, and faithful Catholic artists—it's that we lack a Catholic arts culture. We aren't the first people to say this, but we want to take a concrete step to change it. 

So instead of "a funeral for multiple corpses," we envisioned this conference as a celebration of the contemporary writers, artists, and musicians who have emerged in a literary, religious and cultural milieu vastly different from that of our lionized predecessors. We want the adjuncts, freelancers, bloggers, poets, painters, singer-songwriters and genre fiction writers to come together and share the ways they're working within a tradition th at may trouble them, challenge them, and inspire them all at the same time. 

Moreover, in a time when traditional religion is viewed as suspect, passé, or offensive, many authors and artists are uncomfortable talking about their personal religion or spirituality, while others grope for new ways to say “God.” They attempt to articulate an amorphous truth in an “elsewhere beyond language,” in the words of Fanny Howe, but use language to explore their way toward it. The Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts at the University of Notre Dame—together with Sick Pilgrim, PatheosImage, and St. Michael's College in Toronto—will bring together both well-known and emerging writers, artists and musicians who are wrestling with religious experience and traditions in new ways. We will feature authors in all literary genres: poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction and memoir, fantasy, and science fiction.

We want to create a community of support, encouraging each other in a world that is dismissive and outright hostile toward our faith to continue Trying to Say God in our own distinctive way. 

More information for the conference, including how to register, can be found here.