My research explores the intersection of religion with literature (and the arts), with philosophy, and with critical theory. A particular emphasis is on hermeneutics and the questions of textuality and interpretation.
I am concerned with how religion necessarily crosses over into other realms of thinking and experience, and how this might be made manifest in the various textual expressions handed down by tradition or found within contemporary culture.
My work therefore has been consciously interdisciplinary, as I pursue ways to envision and enact religion beyond its institutional norms, beyond even the category of religion itself.
Previous work has looked at the way religion and creative expression have been forged together within the modern philosophical context laid down by Kant (Poetics of Critique, Ashgate, 2003). More recent work has looked at the way this forging was continued in post-Kantian German idealism, particularly Hegel. The latter has exposed the crucial role that the notions of nothing and negativity have played in developing our modern consciousness, particularly of or around religion and art. Two recent publications examine this role: the first, a preparatory study, constructs a history of ideas around the way the concept of One gives way in Western modernity to an ever-increasing potency of the concept of Nothing and its figurations (Auden's O: The Loss of One's Sovereignty in the Making of Nothing, SUNY, 2013); a second looks in a more focussed manner at one of the key players in this shift, the philosopher Hegel, and the creative - indeed disruptive - role negation plays in his system, and in so much of the modernity and postmodernity to follow him (Hegel and the Art of Negation, I.B. Tauris, 2013). Present work continues to explore the "speculative" implications of Hegel and negation in contemporary thought and practice, both in Western contexts and, increasingly, in a Chinese context, where the concept of Nothing has had a much richer heritage.
Since 2004 I have been the Executive General Editor of Literature and Theology: An International Journal of Religion, Theory and Culture that publishes international scholars working in the fields of religion, literature, theory and culture. The Journal helps to sponsor biennial conferences around Europe and the UK, in conjunction with the International Society for Religion, Literature and Culture, of which I am Secretary. The latest conference will be in Leuven, Belgium on "Re-imagining Human" (Sept. 2014).
I welcome postgraduate research proposals in the following areas: religion/theology and literature, religion/theology and the arts, religion/theology and continental philosophy (Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida, et al.), hermeneutics (Gadamer, Ricoeur, et al.), critical theory, nothing and negation, and other related areas.