CFP: Saints and Sanctity in Language, Literature and Culture

Submission deadline: October 18, 2017

Conference date(s):
October 18, 2017 - October 20, 2017

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Conference Venue:

Department of English and German Philologies, University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, Poland
Olsztyn, Poland

Topic areas


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The Departments of English and  German Philology at the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, Poland are pleased to invite you to an International Interdisciplinary Conference on


Sanctity and Saints in Language, Literature and Culture

18th-20th Oct 2017


The conference concerns the motifs of sanctity, sacred places and figures of the saints, which have undergone culturally determined transformation perceptible on the diachronic and synchronic scales. In contemporary times many texts revert to the ancient genre of hagiography. The motifs of saintly lives determine the plot development of multiple dramatic and literary texts, as well as of many films, such as, among others: T. S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory, Thomas Mann’s The Holy Sinner (Der Erwählte), George Mackay Brown’s Magnus, A Man for All Seasons (1966) directed by Fred Zinnemann, The Mission (1986) dir. Roland Joffé, Life for Life: Maximilian Kolbe (1991) dir. Krzysztof Zanussi, The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999) dir. Luc Besson. The genre elements of hagiography have also influenced the ways of constituting literary, dramatic and film characters in many works that do not openly deal with the lives of the saints.

The linguistic research conducted into many languages has revealed the rich layers of meaning of the terms sanctity, saintliness, holiness, saint, saintly, holy. One of the purposes of such analyses is reaching the primary semantic core of who is regarded as a saint, what is regarded as saintly, or the primary experience of sanctity. Some interesting conclusions have been reached by Polish historical linguists who have established the primary sense of the lexeme saint and have proved its word-forming activity over the centuries. In old Polish the word meant strong, mighty and enduring and it originated from early Slavonic.

Who or what is understood as saintly in many different texts, works of art, languages and epochs? What are the changes in constituting the motifs of sanctity, and in the meanings of words from the families of  the words saint and holy? What changes are perceptible in the linguistic, literary, dramatic, cultural and artistic depiction of a male or female saint or a sacred place? Diverse transpositions of the terms related to the conceptualisation of sanctity can be observed not only in the realm of languages, literatures and broadly understood art but also in the old and new media.

The conference welcomes the participation of English, German and Polish studies specialists, historians, culture studies specialists, film studies specialists, philosophers and specialists in the related disciplines.

We suggests the following  research topics :

·         etymology and semantics of the words saint, holy, sanctity, holiness in English, German, Polish and other languages,

·         phraseology of lexemes saint and holy;

·         axiolinguistic dimension of sanctity;

·         ways of desacralising the lexemes from the families of words saint and holy

·         language evolution and conceptualising sanctity;

·         realisations of semantic aspects of the lexemes saint, holy, sanctity and holiness in various literary epochs;

·         figures of the saints and motifs of sanctity in poetry, fiction and drama;

·         depiction and conceptualisation of sanctity in film, old and new media, art;

·         topos of a holy place;

·         archetypes related to sanctity;

·         a saint as a symbolic figure;

·         (non)ideal sanctity as a popular motif;

·         literary and nonliterary texts authored by the saints;

·         a saint as a culture-forming and historiocentric foundation;

·         a saint as a new beginning, the vortex of community formation and a model for it;

·         martyrdom of the saints in the context of constituting "national spirit" and/or "community spirit";

·         cultural differences in perception of sanctity;

·         saints as patrons of the nations;

·         images and words of the saints in public space.

The above list is not exhaustive. We invite other panel papers which come within the thematic scope of the conference.

Our conference will take place in the Humanities Centre at the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, Kurta Obitza Street 1, 10-725 Olsztyn, Poland. Proposals for twenty-minute papers, with abstracts up to 200 words, should be sent by 30 Apr 2017 to , conference fee 100 Euro.

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