Aug 31

The Journal of Heresy Studies: Call for Participation

The recently founded International Society for Heresy Studies is starting a new online journal tentatively titled The Journal of Heresy Studies. The journal will focus on interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed academic papers on the subjects of heresy, blasphemy and non-belief in contexts of literature, art, and culture. Current academic discussions of religion and faith often pass over these subjects or give them a confessional turn, a critical blind spot that this new publication aims to correct. The journal is currently looking for members of the editorial board as well as peer-reviewers who would be qualified to evaluate papers on these subjects, or whose scholarship is in the disciplines of literary studies (in any language or genre), art history, religious studies, secular studies, theology, history, philosophy, psychology, sociology, and humanism.  Please send inquiries to Bernard Schweizer (, Geremy Carnes (, or Ed Simon ( The Society plans to hold its first conference in the spring of 2014 in New York City. Those interested in the aims and history of the Society are welcome to refer to our website at

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Jul 06

On the Need for a Society for Heresy Studies:
Edward Simon

Note: This post is part of a series of exposés by ISHS members on what attracts them to heresy, blasphemy, or unbelief as a subject of study. We encourage everyone to respond to the exposés in the comments section. If you are an ISHS member and would like to write an exposé, please contact us.

Edward Simon
Doctoral Candidate, Lehigh University (Bethlehem, PA)

In 1592 an English Jesuit priest by the name of Robert Persons wrote of a secret “School of Atheism.” Various writers, statesman, and scholars were identified with this heresy that was more often feared than visible. Supposedly centered around the courtier, poet, and explorer Walter Raleigh, the “school” included the astronomer and New World colonist Thomas Harriot, the playwright George Chapman, and Christopher Marlowe who was already largely associated with his ominous “Dr. Faustus.” In a society that was permeated with religious faith atheism seemed impossible and in many ways may have actually been impossible. Despite this, the threat of non-belief, of heresy, and of blasphemy were very real to a man like Persons who was himself exiled from England for deviating from his society’s current orthodoxy. While most modern scholars think that such a school’s existence was apocryphal, an academic a century ago renamed the supposed society with a line from Shakespeare: “Black is the badge of hell/The hue of dungeons and the school of night.” Whether it existed or not, the idea of a “School of Night” exerts a profound power, one that should not be dismissed simply because it may not be a historical reality. Read the rest of this entry »

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May 01

Call for the Foundation of a Society for Heresy Studies

Religious approaches to literature have been dominated by apologetics and by the confessional tendencies advocated by T.S. Eliot. An atheist, therefore, still sticks out like a sore thumb at the CCL (Conference on Christianity and Literature), and the majority of publications in journals such as Literature and Theology and Religion and Literature are cast in a traditionalist, pietistic mold. Critics who examine the heretical, blasphemous, or atheistic implications of literary texts—without using such analyses to advance a conformist religious agenda—tend to be relegated to the margins.

It is time to give those who specialize in nonconformist or even anti-religious aspects of literature a “home,” i.e. a society, a peer-reviewed journal, and regular conferences. To this end, we propose to found the Society for Heresy Studies. Read the rest of this entry »

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