Sacred Modernisms

Organiser: Guylian Nemegeer (Ghent University)

This panel examines how religious themes, discourses, and sources intersect with modernist paradigms. Monica Jansen (University of Utrecht) focuses on the work of Celso Costantini (1876-1958), a key proponent of Pope Pius XI’s ideas on modern sacred art and missionary art decolonization. She investigates his writings on novecentismo, black art, and missionary art, as well as the transnational and interdisciplinary sources that influenced his ideas. Drawing on two recent exhibitions in Brussels, the paper further considers the tension between the “de-westernization” of missionary art and the Christianization of indigenous art from the perspective of decolonial art practices. Prabha Shankar Dwivedi (Indian Institute of Technology Tirupati) investigates the Bhagavadgītā’s views on the concept of boundary/border and its influence on modernist paradigms. More specifically, he contends that the Bhagavadgītā sees the end of material life as the beginning of eternity and that this notion became crucial in modernist literature, such as T.S. Eliot’s “The Tower” and W.B. Yeats’ “Sailing to Byzantium”. Jamie Cristopher Callinson (University of Agder) discusses the impact of a specific discovery in the life of H.D, an imagist poet. Drawing on archival sources from H.D’s childhood, he uncovers her surprise upon finding her childhood religion, the Moravians, referenced in an occult narrative in Denis De Rougemont’s Love in the Western World. Callinson argues that this incident profoundly shaped H.D.’s poetry and prose of the time, and he uses it to reflect on the mutual significance of lived religion and modernism.


Monica Jansen (Utrecht University) – Celso Costantini’s Uses of Modernism in Missionary Sacred Art: An Act of Decolonization?

Prabha Shankar Dwivedi (Indian Institute of Technology Tirupati) – Metaphysics of Boundary: Configuring the Bhagavadgītā in the Modernist Paradigms

Jamie Christopher Callinson (University of Agder) – Rediscovering the Moravians: Between Credulity and Credibility in the Poetry and Lived Religion of H.D.