CFP: Holy Monsters, Sacred Grotesques, at Rice University Oct. 25-27, 2013

Holy Monsters, Sacred Grotesques 

October 25-27, 2013 

Young Professional and Graduate Conference

Department of Religious Studies

Rice University 


The Rice Gnosticism, Mysticism, and Esotericism Work Group, in association with the Religious Studies Department of Rice University, invites proposals for the upcoming conference “Holy Monsters, Sacred Grotesques,” to be held at Rice University in Houston, Texas, on October 25 – 27, 2013. We request abstracts by May 17, 2013.

“Holy Monsters, Sacred Grotesques” aims to create conversations on the impact of monstrosity and examples of the grotesque in discourse related to religion and the sacred. The tendency to populate religious landscapes with non-human entities, literally demonize opponents, perceive monsters as existing in far-reaching geographical borders (e.g., “the East” in Medieval Europe), and decorate sacred sites with grotesques is a trait shared throughout innumerable traditions. Recently the term “monster studies” was coined to cover the recent works dedicated to monsters by such authors as John Block Friedman, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, and Asa Mittman, who have helped to provide a framework for the study of such phenomena, not only in religious studies but also in literature, art history, and history. Through this framework, monsters and grotesques have been revealed as important markers of marginality, social boundaries, liminality, identity, cultural borders, and the “Other.”

“Holy Monsters, Sacred Grotesques” seeks to inform conversations about the sacred with monstrous discourse. We desire to do so in an interdisciplinary fashion and to encourage scholars in fields outside of religious studies who deal with such materials to join in our conversation. As such, we seek papers not only from religious studies but other disciplines in the humanities (e.g., philosophy, history, gender studies, art history, literature) and social sciences (e.g., political science, sociology, psychology, anthropology), as well.

Papers should not exceed 20 minutes in length and should represent an intersection of the sacred (loosely construed) with a theme or object of monstrosity.

Please send a 300-word abstract, along with your name, institution, and year of study (if a graduate student) by May 17, 2013 to:

If you have questions or need additional information, please contact Michael Heyes at


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