The Sacred and The…Profanity: An Online Symposium

8 September 2020, 9.30 AM - 8 September 2020, 5.00 PM


Building on the recent growth of scholarship in the field of humour and religion, this interdisciplinary online symposium aims to bring together scholars from a wide range of fields to explore the multifaceted relationship between humour, obscenity, and religion, and to consider what happens when these worlds collide. Book your free place through Eventbrite here.

There are many examples that seem to support the view that religion and humour have a tense relationship; whether it be ‘comic’ representations of religious figures in the media, jokes about God, or films and television which focus on religion and morality that are considered blasphemous or offensive. These occurrences are often enthusiastically cast as a conflict between religious freedom and the right to dignity in belief, on the one hand, and freedom of expression and the right to offend, on the other. However, the intersection of humour, obscenity, and religion is much more complex than this, and this symposium invites participants to work through various aspects of this relationship. Of particular interest is the place of humour and the obscene in religion, the positive functions it can serve and ultimately its value. We want to ask: what role can humour play in the sphere of religion, and how comfortably? Even if joking might be allowed, can it ever truly fit in? Who decides on the value of humour for religion?

In addition to the panel of papers, the symposium will include a roundtable entitled: “Exploring Religion and Ritual in Humour and the Obscene”. Confirmed speakers for this roundtable are: Professor Bernard Schweizer (Co-Founder of the Humour and Religion Network), Dr Emily Selove (Senior Lecturer of Medieval Arabic Language and Literature), Dr Lieke Stelling (Assistant Professor in English Literature), and Dr Simon Weaver (Senior Lecturer in Media and Communications).

Symposium schedule

09:30-09:45     Introductions

09:45-11:00     Roundtable Professor Bernard Schweizer, Dr Emily Selove, Dr Lieke Stelling and Dr Simon Weaver

11:00-11:20     Break

11:20-13:00     Parallel Panels 1

Offending the divine

Joe Watson  Songs Fit for A Garden, Not The Gods: Divine Belonging and Exclusion in the Carmina Priapea

Jay Friesen A Splash and a Smash: Religious Obscenity and Social Commentary in Curb Your Enthusiasm and Little Mosque on the Prairie

Stephen Gregg Religion, Comedy and Purposeful Offence

Richard Cimino and Christopher Smith Irreverence and its role in the Atheist Awakening

Reflecting on humour

Daria Akhapkina Pious Trickster and Foul Monk: Religious Satire in Roman de Renart

Fatemeh Nasr Esfahani Persian Ethnic Jokes and Religious Assimilation in Iran

Francisco Barrenechea Aelian and the Gods of Comedy

Jovan Cvjetičanin Literary Thresholds in Martial’s Epigrams

13:00-14:30     Lunch

14:30-16:10     Parallel Panels 2

Gendered humour

Niamh Kehoe Gendered Humour in Early Modern Saint's Lives

Fredericka Tevebring Baubo’s Joke: Situating the Obscene in the Eleusinian Mysteries

Shannon Philip Humour of ‘Manly’ Hindu Warriors and their ‘Obscene’ Muslim Enemies

Hanna Golab Ancient Greek Drag in the Service of the Virgin Goddess

Laughing at/with religious authority

Anastasiya Fiadotava, Liisi Laineste, and Tõnno Jonuks Contemporary Clergy Jokes in Estonia and Belarus

Peter Swallow Bringing the Gods Down to Earth with Aristophanes

Lena Richter Challenging Religious Authority by Using Humour

Monique Ingalls Of Animatronic Praise Bands and Worship Leading Chickens: Locating the Sacred through Evangelical Christian Worship Music Parodies

16:15-17:00     Concluding remarks/drinks



Contact information

For any queries related to the event, please contact Paul Martin and Nicole Graham

Edit this page