CfP/CfA Veranstaltungen

Answering the Call. Aesthetic Expressions of Vocation and Responsibility in Nordic Cultures since 1750

Deadline Abstract

Call for papers

International Conference

Answering the Call: Aesthetic Expressions of Vocation and Responsibility in Nordic Cultures since 1750

Date: 21st to 23rd March 2024

Place: Strasbourg

“Jeg må! Jeg må; så byder mig en stemme i sjælens dyb, — og jeg vil følge den”? Ibsen, Catilina

In Ibsen’s first published play Catilina (1850), the eponymous protagonist is torn between love and duty. Though set in ancient Rome, the play speaks to a seemingly ever-present issue in Northern Europe: calls of duty ring throughout its modern history. Such a tendency has been seen as linked to a Protestant heritage, most famously by Max Weber.

In The Protestant Ethic, Weber noted that the German noun Beruf and the English equivalent 'calling' had no exact correspondences in the European languages of Catholic-majority countries. From the Reformation onward, these terms had started evoking a “high estimation of secular everyday labour”. Giving work a religious significance, they implied that one's religious duty could be fulfilled within this world. In fact, such notions demanded it, asking all Protestants to take their responsibility.

Stemming from Latin respons, being responsible initially comes from the ability to respond, thus to be held accountable for one’s deeds. It is a central notion for Luther, who believed that Christians, as both free Lords and serviceable servants of all things, are responsible for the world. The inner calling leads to a responsibility for the make-up of the outer world.

But the meaning of such a calling has always been ambiguous. Different actors have at various times made sense of the responsibility it entails differently. As Inger Hammar has shown, the calling, and its concomitant definition of work, has even been a point where larger historical changes are intellectually concentrated. It could thus be construed as a site of semantic struggle.

It has often been artists and authors who contribute to this debate. Literature, film and other fields of aesthetic expression have been sites in which the framework for understanding of what the duty to work consists is defined and redefined; they have been the medium where the tension between the individual and the voice(s) that call on them has been brought out.

As with the example of Ibsen above, the sense that one is responsible for one's fate and in extension for the world seems to be present even when the religious referent is missing. While fulfilling a calling is for most people today no longer linked to a sense of religious salvation, merely a brief look in contemporary Nordic literature would suggest that a sense of duty and reward remains. What appears to persist is the foundational stress on individual responsibility. 

How, we wonder, does the sensed need to fulfill one's calling motivate decisions even when the call lacks a transcendental source or a specific message?

The conference organizers invite proposals that explore the themes of calling and responsibility within the context of (the often implicit) Protestant legacy in Nordic culture in literature, film and other fields of art.


Such an exploration may follow multiple paths, such as:

This conference is organized by members of the research group “Aesthetics of Protestantism in Scandinavia from the 19th to the 21st Century” (Université de Strasbourg/Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg):

All papers will be given in English and the conference will result in a volume published in the series “Aesthetics of Protestantism in Northern Europe”, edited by Joachim Grage (Freiburg), Thomas Mohnike (Strasbourg) and Lena Rohrbach (Basel). 

Please send your proposals for papers, of max. 500 words, accompanied by a short bio by 16 October 2023 to: 

Pehr Englén (

Quelle der Beschreibung: Information des Anbieters


Nordeuropäische Literatur (Dänemark, Schweden, Norwegen, Finnland), Literatur und Kulturwissenschaften/Cultural Studies, Literatur und Theologie/Religionswissenschaften, Ästhetik, Literatur des 19. Jahrhunderts, Literatur des 20. Jahrhunderts, Literatur des 21. Jahrhunderts




University of Strasbourg & University of Freiburg
Beitrag von: Pehr Englén
Datum der Veröffentlichung: 24.05.2023
Letzte Änderung: 24.05.2023