Education and Arts

The Sacred in Literature and the Arts

The Sacred in Literature and the Arts (SLA) is a community of interest, originating within the Faculty of Education and Arts at Australian Catholic University but extending far beyond it.

SLA draws its inspiration from the Religion, Literature and the Arts (RLA) project that hosted a series of annual international conferences in the 1990s. These conferences brought Australian and international writers, artists, musicians, academics, religious and members of the general public together to talk about the interplay between religion and the arts. They resulted in a series of publications featuring key papers from those conferences and a special edition of the UK journal Literature and Theology 10.3 (1996).

The most recent SLA Conference, Grounding the Sacred through Literature and the Arts, was held at the Strathfield campus of ACU, 23 - 26 July 2015. The conference, part of ACU's 25th anniversary program, included keynote speakers, conference paper sessions, performances and an art exhibition, EarthSong (PDF, 384KB). For further information, see Past events, 2015, below.

Upcoming events

Arrangements are underway for a two-day conference on the Strathfield campus in 2017. Awakening the Sacred through Literature and the Arts will be held on 7-8 July, 2017. Invited speakers who will be addressing the question 'how can literature and the arts help us to awaken to an experience of the sacred?' include Laurence Freeman OSB, Shaykh Muhammad Mendes (Imam at Masjid al-Mo'mineen, Atlanta, Georgia), Professor Sasha Grishin, Dr Rachael Kohn, Dr Maeve Heaney, Emeritus Professor David Tacey, and artists Michael Galovic and Chelsea Adkins, and the ACU Choir. The conference will also include an exhibition of icons by Michael Galovic. The preliminary conference flier (PDF, 386KB) is available here. Further information is available on the conference site.

Past events

Grounding the Sacred through Literature and the Arts was the third in the series of SLA conferences and was held on the Strathfield campus of ACU between 23-26 July 2015. It was organised in conjunction with members of the Religion and Creativity project in the Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry at ACU. Guest speakers included David Jasper (Glasgow University), Thaddeus Metz (University of Johannesburg, Vivien Johnson, Kevin Hart, Imam Afroz Ali, Carmel Bird, Michael McGirr, David Malouf, Rachael Kohn, Kathleen Deignan (Iona Spirituality Institute) and Genevieve Lacey. The McGlade Gallery hosted EarthSong, an exhibition of paintings by Papunya Tula Artists and the Warlayirti Artists of Balgo, on loan from Lloyd Graham. The Conference Program (PDF, 8MB), can be accessed here. Selected articles drawn from the conference and papers will be published in the UK journal Literature and Theology in 2017.

A music event, Sounding the Sacred, was held at St Benedict's Monastery, Arcadia (NSW) on 13 September 2014 in conjunction with the Sydney Sacred Music Festival. The day provided an opportunity to explore and discuss a range of music that touches the divine. Presenters/performers included Maeve Heaney, Joelene Griffith, Kevin Bates, Gregoriana Arcadia, the Gregorian Schola of Sydney and poet Anne Benjamin. For further information about the Sydney Sacred Music Festival, visit the website.

Two events were held in 2013, a one-day David Malouf Symposium in May and a two day conference, Addressing the Sacred through Literature and the Arts, in August. Links to the resulting special issue of JASAL, celebrating David Malouf, and to the Addressing the Sacred book of abstracts are below:

- Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature 14,2 (2014)

- 2013 Conference Abstracts (PDF, 955KB)

Writing the Sacred was the first event to be hosted by SLA at Mt St Mary Campus, Strathfield in September 2012. The conference attracted about 220 participants of all ages and from all walks of life. Links to the conference brochure and program are below.

- 2012 Conference Program (PDF, 554KB)

- 2012 Conference Brochure (PDF, 860KB)

If you wish to be part of the on-going SLA community, or receive news of our conferences and associated events and publications, please contact or