Consolation – literary and religious perspectives [Full issue]

Håkan Möller, Beata Agrell


Enforced suffering, grief, mourning, and the need of consola- tion are existential predicaments of every living soul ever since the first breath of life. Consolation is also a subject with a long history. From the biblical psalms of consolation – stretching through thousands of years of religious and literary history
– and in ancient texts as Gilgamesh, and the Iliad over classics such as the above quoted Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy, and Thomas More’s Dialogue of Comfort, to all kinds of con- temporary literary expressions of consolation. The subject could also be seen from different angles: the reading of conso- lation, and the consolations of writing. These activities are often intertwined. The consolations of writing when published might become consoling for the reader. The communication of consoling is in other words also deeply reciprocal and dialogi- cal. What kind of texts that will give a reading and distressed subject comfort or release can’t be decided by anyone but the sole reader. Moreover, the subject seems to be limitless. Conso- lation is a truly manifold and interdisciplinary subject. This volume of essays is an excellent proof of this.

This work began some years ago at the Department of Litera- ture, History of Ideas, and Religion. A group of interdisciplinary researchers developed ideas and research-plans on the topic of consolation, and this anthology is a manifestation of that highly interesting and promising project. As a result of the mutual interests in literature and religion among many of the research- ers at the department and due to a propitious academic milieu, the Network for Literature and Religion was established in 2012 at the Department of Literature, History of Ideas, and Religion (LIR). During the last years a promising collaboration with the Centre for the Study of Literature, Theology & the Arts at the University of Glasgow has developed, and these essays are the first proof in print of this international cooperation.

The present essays were first presented as speeches at the conference »Consolation – Literary and Religious Perspectives«, held at the University of Gothenburg and arranged by The Network for Literature and Religion at the Department of Literature, History of Ideas, and Religion (LIR). The focus of the conference was on the tradition of consolation as expressed in literary and religious texts. This focus, however, is part of a wide field including cultural and historical contexts as well as conceptual studies, sociological and psychological investiga- tions, and phenomenological perspectives. Therefore the con- ference was free for all kinds of perspectives within the complex of literary/religious consolation. That perspectival freedom within a thematic unity is preserved in this collection of essays.

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