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The Prophetic Word: Poetry, Philosophy and Theology in Conversation
Wed, Sep 13, 2017, 4:00 PM – Sat, Sep 16, 2017, 1:00 PM BST
The fifth Power of the Word international conference, to be held at Oxford in September 2017, focuses on the prophetic genius of literature, particularly of poetry. ‘Prophetic genius’ is understood here to be that relentless impulse of literature to challenge the world from which it has arisen and, looking beyond, to propose alternative visions, practicable or utopian, of individual and collective fulfilment.
In some authors – Dante, Milton and Blake are three obvious examples – the prophetic word is overtly religious, in others – Virgil, Shelley and Yeats, say – it is not. Often the distinction becomes blurred, as in the poems of H.D., Denise Levertov and Allen Ginsberg. The conference will explore this theme in conversation with theology, philosophy, the three main Abrahamic religions and Greek and Latin literature and learning, and address some universal questions. For example, what do these various traditions and their understanding of the prophetic have in common? Are they mostly different or even in conflict? How do their audiences discern true from false prophets? How do they know when ‘good spirits not evil ones choose poets for their instruments’ (Czesław Miłosz)? Can poets really claim to have a prophetic authority comparable to that attributed in Scripture to the prophets? How persuasive is Seamus Heaney’s sense of the ‘redress of poetry’, of its power to stimulate alternative ways of being in the world?
The programme will include contributions by literary scholars, creative writers, theologians and philosophers, all working on texts and authors from different backgrounds and traditions. Confirmed keynote speakers: John Barton (University of Oxford), Tina Beattie (University of Roehampton), William Franke (Vanderbilt University), Michèle Le Doeuff (ENS Paris), Christopher Rowland (University of Oxford), Alessandro Schiesaro (University of Manchester), and Mona Siddiqui (University of Edinburgh). The Conference will host a poetry-reading event and a public lecture in relation to the topic of the conference