Religion and Secularism in East Asian Literatures

While the hegemonic narrative of secularization has long been contested across disciplines for more than one generation, the field of literary studies seems reluctant to launch critical response. This working group seeks to problematize the deep-seated secularist presumptions, both theoretical and methodological, in the study of East Asian Literatures. On the one hand, it (re)visits the questions of the field broadly defined as “Religion and Literature,” in both modern and pre-modern contexts. On the other, it explores the interpretive and methodological possibilities that East Asian literatures might bring to the contemporary discussions of secular modernity and the post-secular. How do “religious” texts complicate our understanding of literature, in terms of genre, narration, hermeneutics, etc.? How do literary texts (re-)define what religion could possibly be? What is the relationship between the texts traditionally labeled as “religious” and those categorized as “secular”? What does it mean to challenge ideological secularism in a non-European context? 

Our working group meets regularly throughout the year. Each meeting starts with a brief presentation (10-15 minutes) followed by discussion. In the attempt to probe the interstices between literary and religious studies, we welcome participants from all Humanities and Social Sciences disciplines.