Call for Papers Volume: Dissenting Beliefs: Heresy and Heterodoxy in Fantasy

Religious fantasy, for a great many readers, is synonymous with Christian fantasy; more specifically, it is understood as literature overtly reproducing biblical narratives within a fantasy world, such as C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. Concurrently, fantasy texts engaging with theology through non-allegorical means that challenge mainstream Christian doctrine are all too often dismissed as disingenuous, offensive or deliberately antagonistic. While this is sometimes the case, such a narrow view of religious fantasy excludes all but the least innovative texts from the genre and leaves little room for authors of other faiths. Furthermore, the dominance of texts affirming orthodoxy in religious fantasy discourse threatens to blind us to another side of belief: that radical, sometimes even heretical, literary reconfigurations of religion can also be acts of devotion. 

If religious fantasy is instead allowed to encompass heterodoxy and heresy, theological subversions and expressions of misotheism, then the affordances of religious fantasy expand far beyond the didacticism popularly attributed to it. Understood in these terms, religious fantasy can be used: to affirm one’s identity and spiritual worth in opposition to official doctrines which may deny it, as a tool of protest against unjust systems of power, to explore complex spiritual responses to historical instances of religious complicity in atrocities, or to express lived spiritual experiences which do not conform to orthodox teachings. 

Following on from the ‘Dissenting Beliefs’ conference sponsored by the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic at the University of Glasgow in December 2021, this edited volume aims to encompass the depth and breadth of new scholarship on the affordances of heresy and heterodoxy in fantasy across a wide range of faiths. We welcome proposals for eventual peer-reviewed chapters of 5,000-7,000 words, and we especially welcome submissions from postgraduate students and early-career researchers. Chapters might address, but are not limited to, the following topics: 

  • Queer, feminist and womanist theology in fantasy 
  • Non-Western, post-colonial or anti-colonial heresies and fantasy 
  • Misotheism, ‘New’ Atheism and Death of God theology in fantasy 
  • Fantasy and interreligious dialogue 
  • The affordances of fantasy in theologies of protest 
  • New Media’s interactions with fantasy and theology, and how this might differ from traditional media 

Please submit a 300-word abstract and a short bio (maximum 150 words) to Dissenting.Beliefs@gmail.com with the subject line ‘Abstract Submission’ by 3 October 2022. We are particularly keen to highlight the contributions of authors who are underrepresented in scholarship on religion and theology in fantasy; therefore we will not be accepting submissions on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling or Philip Pullman. 

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