Call for Papers: Religion and the Book

A call for papers has been issued for “Studies in Book Culture,” an Open Access peer-reviewed journal that has been published semiannually at the University of Sherbrooke since 2009.  The call is for Volume 6, Number 2, Spring 2015, “Religion and the Book.” Guest-edited by Scott McLaren, York University.

The relationship between the written word and religion is as old as writing itself. Today all the world’s major religions lay claim to sacred texts that in turn demand a special kind of attentiveness on the part of the reader. Indeed, the emphasis that Christianity and Islam— the world’s largest religions—place on the written word is so intensive that they, together with Judaism, are often simply referred to as “religions of the book.” But just as print undoubtedly pervades religious thought and practice, so too have religious actors and communities exercised their own protracted influence over the technologies of writing and printing. When the earliest Christian communities abandoned the scroll in favour of the codex, they at once changed both the mechanics of reading and prepared the ground for monastic scribes to develop paratextual tools—tables of contents, cross-references, and indices—that today we can hardly imagine our own books without. Religious controversialists in the era of the Reformation all but sustained the publishing enterprise at a time of cultural retrenchment when they pioneered the use of inexpensive pamphlets and flysheets—among the first forms of printed ephemera—to advance their religious and denominational agendas. Bible, tract, and missionary societies also played a powerful part in supporting the growth of stereotyping and steam printing at the dawn of the nineteenth century as these organizations transformed themselves into the world’s first global publishers in a renewed era of empire. Even today texts that seem calculated to appeal directly to the religious sensibilities of readers—from William Young’s The Shack to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code—continue to achieve enormous commercial success while they discomfit mainstream cultural critics and traditional believers alike.

This special issue invites submissions in English or French that explore the relationship between religion and the book, broadly defined, in either historical or contemporary settings and from a variety of disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives. Articles concerned with print culture and Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as well as Asian and African religions are most welcome. Potential areas of focus include how religious communities shape and are shaped by their interactions with the written and printed word, how the privileging of print guides the development of doctrine and practice, how books reinforce as well as subvert religious power, how the marketplace for books impacts the evolution of religious identity in various geopolitical and economic spaces, how religious agents contribute to the public sphere, and how changes associated with the advent of new forms of media influence the construction of meaning and even help determine what counts as religious truth for contemporary readers.

Article proposals of approximately 250 words should be emailed before 1 October 2014 to Scott McLaren (scottm@yorku.ca), guest editor of this special number. A response will be given by 20 October 2014 following evaluation of the proposal by the editorial committee. Proposed articles that have been accepted must be submitted by 20 January 2015, at which time they will be peer-reviewed. Articles recommended for publication must be re-submitted by 30 March 2015 for publication in spring 2015.

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