Media & Theology Conference in Los Angeles

Posted in conferences (to attend) by Editor on November 20, 2009

The following two-day conference deals mainly with the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, though the stakes could also bear on eighteenth-century studies. From the Clark Memorial Library website:

Cultures of Communication, Theologies of Media in Early Modern Europe and Beyond: Theology as Media Theory
Clark Memorial Library, UCLA, Los Angeles, 4-5 December 2009

Organized by Christopher Wild and Ulrike Strasser; registration deadline is 25 November 2009.

The early modern period has long been recognized as a time of revolutionary change in the uses of media and forms of communication. Much attention has been focused on the history of print and the book in particular. Without questioning the importance of this technology- and book-oriented perspective, this series of conferences considers print media alongside a range of other media with which they interacted (“multimediality”) and re-approaches the history of media in early modern Europe from an original and timely perspective. It resists the technological focus and teleological pull of the Gutenberg galaxy and concentrates instead on the powerful religious and theological currents informing communication and media. We suggest that the history of media in early modern Europe is best understood in its longue durée from the sixteenth through the eighteenth century and in reference to the long-term aftershocks of the Reformation and the profound transformation of both media and mediation it set in motion. The sixteenth-century reformers not only revolutionized the use of media, they also formulated their own theories about media and communication, addressing issues that remain of concern to modern media theorists who, however, rarely consider their theological precursors.

Protestants and Catholic reformers, albeit in confessionally distinct ways, responded to the same cultural crisis in mediation between God and humanity, as well as within the community of believers, particularly as the latter began expanding rapidly with the onset of global evangelization. Each camp developed theories and practices of optimizing ‘vertical communication’ with the divine and ‘horizontal communication’ among humanity. Consequently, the recourse to the different theologies of early modern reform can help us examine the complex and competing media cultures of the time and what helped drive technological changes. The transformation of media had a persistent corollary in the critique of mediation. Once unleashed, this critique would not go away, but would be reformulated throughout the early modern period and beyond, and in a host of contexts within and beyond the religious domain.

Against this backdrop, our conference cycle takes as its starting point the conjunction of Reformation theology and the rise of new media in the sixteenth century to then traces the ripple effects of these phenomena in the following centuries. Our sites of investigation include European cultures, “New World” spaces, and the trans-oceanic communication networks linking them.

Registration Fees: $15 per person; UC faculty & staff, students with ID: no charge (photocopy of student ID should accompany registration the completed registration form). Complimentary lunch and other refreshments are provided to all registrants. Please be aware that space at the Clark is limited and that registration closes when capacity is reached. No confirmation will be sent, but we will contact you if we receive your registration after we reach capacity.

Theology as Media Theory, 4-5 December 2009

Our first conference takes the historiographical commonplace “no Reformation without print” and proceeds from its chiastic inversion “no print without the Reformation” to highlight the importance of theology to the fortunes of print and, more broadly, to the formation of media cultures throughout the early modern period. At the center of the Reformation was a crisis of mediation to which it responded and which it helped perpetuate. Mediation was thought to be fundamentally corrupted and corruptive and hence in need of reform. To name only a few examples, priesthood, liturgy, worship, and scripture had all been perverted and had to be restored to their original state of ‘pure communication.’ Consequently, media were as much instruments of reform as they were its targets.

FRIDAY, December 4

Session I: Theology and Mediation, moderator: Ulrike Strasser (UC Irvine)

  • Steven Mailloux (Loyola Marymount University), “TheoRhetoric as Media Theory”
  • Lee Palmer Wandel (University of Wisconsin), “Absence and Presence: The Implications of Incarnation for Cultural Theory”
  • Jonathan Sheehan (UC Berkeley), “Theology and the Form of Polemic”
  • Julia Reinhard Lupton (UC Irvine),”Shakespeare and Religion: A New Media Inventory”

SATURDAY, December 5

Session II: Religious Media; moderator: David Sabean (UCLA)

  • Niklaus Largier (UC Berkeley), “The Media of Prayer”
  • Bernhard Siegert (Bauhaus-Universität Weimar), “Uses of the Curtain as a Medium in Practices of Religion and Art”
  • Walter S. Melion (Emory University), “Pictorial Artifice as Marian Devotion in the Jesuit Cult of the Virgin”

Session III: Alternative Theologies of Media; moderator: Nancy McLoughlin (UC Irvine)

  • Marcus Sandl (Universität Konstanz),“’Here I stand…’: Face-to-face Communication and Print Media in the Early Reformation”
  • Helmut Puff (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor), “Mediated Immediacies in Thomas Müntzer’s Theology”
  • Thomas Lolis (Ahmanson-Getty Fellow, UCLA), “The Heavenly Cloud Now Circling: Jane Leade and the Trap of Theological Mediation”

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