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KOSMOI Master Class

When 03 Mar 2017
from 10:00 AM to 01:00 PM
Where SW 02.05, Campus of Social Sciences, Parkstraat 45, Leuven
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Prof. Maria Boletsi

(University of Leiden)

Religion, Faith, Irony, and the Barbarians:
J. M. Coetzee’s The Childhood of Jesus and Zbigniew Herbert’s “From Mythology” as anti-allegories for our times

3 March 2017
SW 02.05
Parkstraat 45, Leuven

In the dominant discourse of the “culturalization” of conflict since the early 1990s, the relation between the West and its enemies is often constructed as one between a civilization that has abandoned grand narratives and metaphysical foundations under the influence of postmodern relativism and irony, and “a full-blooded ‘metaphysical’ foe for whom absolute truths and foundations pose no problem at all” (Eagleton). In this workshop we will turn to two literary responses to this purported dualism between irony and faith: J.M. Coetzee’s recent novel The Childhood of Jesus and Zbigniew Herbert’s prose poem “From Mythology.” Both the novel and the poem lure us into reading them allegorically: as allegories of the Biblical narrative and of the history of religion, respectively. Yet, they also thwart attempted allegorical readings, projecting alternative modes of reading the world. By close-reading the novel and the poem comparatively, we will center on the ways they negotiate the relation between faith, religion, and irony, and on how they imagine literature’s relation to the contemporary world.


Participants of the workshop are asked to read selections from:

J. M. Coetzee’s The Childhood of Jesus (2013) and Eagleton, Terry. “Culture and Barbarism.” Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009. 140-169.


Kosmoi - Leuven Centre for the Study of Religion and Worldview consists of researchers working at KU Leuven and involved in the scientific study of religion and worldview. It creates a platform for exchange and stimulates interdisciplinary research on religion and worldview,  promotes initiatives on the study of religion and worldview -including lectures, conferences, publications and research projects- and fosters contacts between KU Leuven researchers and national and international religious studies associations.

If you are interested in joining Kosmoi, please visit our website at

Participants will receive a pdf of the texts after their enrollment into the Master class.

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The KOSMOI annual lecture will be held on 2 March 2017. Click here to read more.


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