The Future of the Catholic Literary Imagination

Current graduate students and recent alumni are warmly invited to contribute proposals for academic papers or performances of creative work for the third biennial conference on The Future of the Catholic Literary Imagination, held this year at Loyola University Chicago, September 19-21, 2019. (Previous iterations were held at the University of Southern California in 2015 and at Fordham University in 2017.)

Catholic University’s English department has a unique connection to this conference: Ph.D. candidate Jessica Schnepp has been invited to coordinate the newly added graduate student sessions, thanks in large part to her work with the Contemporary Catholic Writers Group (CCW). Jessica founded CCW after attending the first conference in 2015, and the group’s reading series has since generated fruitful connection and collaboration between Catholic University graduate students and influential writers and scholars across the country.

By participating in this upcoming conference, Catholic University graduate students will have the opportunity to contribute to important conversations on literature and religion currently ongoing in academia and the public sphere; to benefit from the mentorship of award-winning scholars and literary critics, poet laureates, Pulitzer Prize finalists, Oscar-nominated screenwriters, playwrights, publishers, editors, journalists, theologians, and more; and to foster deeper connections between Catholic University and others who share our department’s dedication to the study of literature as literature and to the interdisciplinary dialogue and public scholarship that enriches literary study and extends its reach.

September 19-21, 2019
Loyola University Chicago

September 19, 2019
Conference sessions for graduate students, creative writers, and early career scholars and teachers in their 20’s and 30’s


In his 2012 NYTimes op-ed “Has Fiction Lost Its Faith?”, Paul Elie described representation of Christian belief in contemporary literary fiction as “something between a dead language and a hangover.” Similarly, in “The Catholic Writer Today” (First Things, 2013), Dana Gioia lamented the dwindling visibility of Catholic literary culture and proposed ways to renovate and revive it. Since then, myriad voices from the Catholic world have amplified and questioned these claims, provoking theoretical and practical debates about the relationship between the Catholic imagination (and the religious imagination more generally) and contemporary literary and popular culture. How do writers “make belief believable” in an age of unbelief? How does the Catholic imagination shape narrative, and how do today’s narrative shapes reflect or diverge from those of past Catholic writers? Does Flannery O’Connor’s mode of “shouting” and “drawing large and startling pictures” still apply today, or are whispers and “intentional blur” photography more effective and appropriate analogies? In an increasingly divisive culture, does the grotesque or the beautiful, the ironic or the sincere, carry more weight? What characterizes a particularly Catholic literary aesthetic and how is it similar to and/or distinct from other faith and literary traditions?

We welcome papers on these or other topics related to the Catholic literary imagination. In addition to academic papers, we are especially interested in responses by creative writers, poets, stage and voice actors, and digital artists to conference themes.

Several need-based scholarships for travel and accommodations are available and will be awarded to conference participants.

Proposals of 300 words and a C.V. should be sent as email attachments to on or before June 15, 2019.

More information about the Catholic Literary Imagination conference is available at

For questions, please contact Dr. Michael P. Murphy at