Imagining Religious Toleration, 1600-1800


Nine scholars from US and Canadian universities will meet at Western to present papers over three days. All panels will be open to faculty and students at Western, and will be available on this website as podcasts after the event. On the evening our symposium begins, Paul Yachnin, Tomlinson Professor of Shakespeare Studies at McGill University, will present a free public lecture at the London Public Library, titled “Shakespeare and the Theatre of Freedom.”


Moses Mendelssohn

Imagining Religious Toleration, 1600-1800, is a three-day symposium to be hosted at Western University, April 26-28, 2017. It will bring scholars together to investigate the literary aspect of religious toleration. The study of religious toleration in the West has been, for the most part, the purview of intellectual historians and political philosophers. Imagining Religious Toleration will make a significant and original contribution in its study of how literary modes were used to shape cultural understandings of coexistence over the course of two hundred years. The diverse authors we will examine provide access to domains as yet unexplored in debates about the history of toleration. Questions central to our conversation include: how do the rhetorical structures governing literary accounts of tolerance and intolerance shape the meaning of the arguments advanced by authors and define the responses they seek to elicit? How does the affective dimension of literature shape the “visceral register,” in William Connolly’s words, within which the conceptual frameworks of tolerance are embedded? What can the turn to literary modes in works of philosophy or theology tell us about the appeal of literary tropes for articulating toleration's various challenges? The questions we will ask have an immediate bearing on our understanding of tolerance and liberal democracy in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Imagining Religious Toleration will engage contemporary theorists (Jurgen Habermas and Wendy Brown, among others) while introducing new methodologies to the conversation, methodologies that, we believe, have the potential to broaden the field of questions asked about both the past and our own historical moment.

This symposium and public talk are supported by the SSHRC Connections grant and the SSHRC Insight grant, the Department of English & Writing Studies, the Faculty of Arts & Humanities, VP Research, the School of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies and the London Public Library.

This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.