2016 Theme: “Mystery and Enigma”

When: Thursday, April 6, 12:00 noon - 5:00 p.m.
Where: Various locations on campus to be announced.


The Kreft Arts Program, in conjunction with the Department of English at Concordia University—Ann Arbor, is pleased to announce the Ninth Annual Conference on Spirituality and the Arts and Sciences. This is an academic conference to be held on the Ann Arbor campus on Thursday, April 6th, 2017. The conference is open to all students, alumni, faculty, and staff of Concordia University, Wisconsin or Ann Arbor, and we solicit papers and projects which explore any aspect of this year's theme—mystery and enigma. The conference functions as a consummation of the Kreft Art Program's annual season of activities, and it centers on the idea of mystery as this concept is displayed across our curriculum and throughout our university disciplines. We seek papers and presentations with a 15-20 minute reading or delivery time (approximately six-seven double-spaced pages in length). Essays authored by current undergraduate students, graduates of Concordia University, and CUAA faculty and staff are especially encouraged. Cash prizes of $500 and $250 will be awarded to the finest two undergraduate-authored essays as determined by the Kreft Arts Committee.

Students...please think about submitting an essay to the conference, or perhaps even submitting a panel proposal with another student (or with a professor) detailing topics you've covered in your classes. Faculty and Staff...please consider submitting essays of your own—portions of your dissertations, sections of articles or books you're writing, pieces of lectures you deliver in class. I'm sure your students would love to hear what you think about when you're not on campus. We seek to fill fifteen to twenty panels, such that sessions will run concurrently throughout the day.

Please submit electronic copies of completed papers by Friday, February 24, 2017 to one or more of the email addresses listed below. Decisions regarding acceptance to the conference will be made by early-March, and those participants whose work is accepted will be placed into panels of two authors each, with a faculty moderator who will introduce the panelists, lead a discussion of the papers, and ask questions of the presenters afterwards (so each panel, or session, will occupy an hour). What we envision, then, are panels devoted to specific discipline areas: for instance, a religion panel, a Greek panel, a Shakespeare panel, a biology panel, a health and human performance panel, an arts panel, and so forth.

Concordia University believes strongly in the academic abilities of its student body, and this conference enables students to display their best work in a formal yet comfortable environment. In a working, global environment that asks students ever more increasingly to build their resumes and expand their academic experiences, this conference provides a forum that indeed makes further-ranging experience possible. We'd love to hear what moves you intellectually and we'd love to hear about the things you're working through in your courses; in short, we'd love to see you dealing with the issues that matter most, and working through the problems and ideas that your courses have prompted. The conference offers a terrific opportunity to build your resume and curriculum vita, to exchange ideas with other students and faculty members, to make further use of essays or projects that you've previously submitted in your courses, and to enter into the larger academic discussion that in many ways governs the world you inhabit.

We ask that you think broadly about this year's theme, understanding that "mystery and enigma” is a multivalent term with connotations which abound. The concepts of mystery and enigma examine or illustrate that which is unknowable, inexplicable, inscrutable, or otherwise mysterious. In an era when the popular view of science and technology comes down firmly on the side of clarity, precision, and rationality, what are the uses of obscurity, ambiguity, and incongruity? Where do we find that which baffles or eludes our understanding? What are we to do with such things once we find them? To what degree should we celebrate those things which we cannot comprehend, or shouldn’t we celebrate them at all? From aesthetic theories of the sublime—with their emphasis on irregularity, vastness, and the infinite—to scientific investigations of time or wave-particle duality, to religious truths that can be known only by revelation, the theme draws on disciplines as diverse as theology, social science, biology, literature, the musical and visual arts, the medical sciences, and health and human performance.

Questions you might consider (though this list is certainly not exhaustive) include: In what sense is mystery a creative act in itself? How are our campus disciplines rooted in concepts of mystery or enigma? What can we learn from the way scholars, teachers, artists, athletes, and thinkers of all kinds deal with the mysterious? The arts and sciences address the theme of mystery formally and thematically in varied and profound ways—in literary, artistic, and musical creation, in theological and philosophical discourse, in educational methodology. And the issue forces us to consider our goals and directions: what is the nature and purpose of the liberal arts themselves and how does mystery allow us to modify the way we live? Mystery is critical to every major and minor we offer on campus, and in each of our disciplines the concept operates in powerfully dynamic ways. We see mystery working in the chemistry lab; in physiology and the exercise sciences; in the world of artistic imagination and creativity; in the realms of poetry, fiction, and drama; in our classes that deal with the human spirit, the human mind, the human condition, and the ways that specific people build relationships with others; in the way we build families and heal divisions among families and peoples; and in the world that God has created and revealed to us through Scripture. What are the points, the conference asks, at which things (people, molecules, mathematical concepts, fictional characters, physiological systems, historical and social movements) force us to reflect upon mystery or are agents of the mysterious themselves? Where do we find evidence of mystery in literature, culture, the arts, religion, and the sciences, and what does it mean if and when we run up against it? What is the purpose of studying the mysterious or the enigmatic, and what are we to learn about ourselves from having done so? What has been the role of mystery in world cultures and what is mystery's function in the twenty-first century and beyond? These are just a few of the many questions which this year's conference hopes to broach.

The possibilities are endless, and chances are really good that either (a) you've already written an essay on mystery that now only needs to be adjusted, or (b) you will have an opportunity to write on mystery during the fall semester (2016), giving you time to get initial feedback from your professor and then submit the essay to the conference next February.

Thank you, and we look forward to reading your work. Stay alert for additional information, which will be forthcoming soon, and if you know current students or alumni who might be interested, please pass this information along.

Best Regards,

Mark Looker | Georgia Kreiger | Neal Migan