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Festival Exploring Literature and Faith

Wednesday November 1 2023

New College, Edinburgh. Picture: Stinglehammer

Acclaimed speakers will explore the relationship between literature and many aspects of belief at a festival hosted by the University of Edinburgh’s School of Divinity this weekend.

Experts including award-winning authors and leading scholars will discuss their work and share their life stories at the New College Festival of Books and Belief.

Nine events are taking place at New College from Thursday November 2 to Saturday November 4.   

The three-day festival opens with a talk by author and academic Laura Saetveit Miles, jointly hosted by the Scottish Network for Religion and Literature and the University of Bergen. The author will share insights from her award-winning book, The Virgin Mary's Book at the Annunciation: Reading, Devotion, and Interpretation in Medieval England, in a discussion chaired by Edinburgh academic Sara Parvis.

Professor John Barclay of Durham University and Professor Matthew Novenson, Director of the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for the Study of Christian Origins, will examine the theme of altruism in the context of Professor Barclay’s book, The Construction of Community and the Circulation of Grace: Thinking with Paul

Acclaimed author Allegra Goodman will discuss her award-winning novel, Kaaterskill Falls, which is based around a community of Orthodox Jews in New York in the 1970s, in a live link from America with Edinburgh academic Hannah Holtschneider.

Award-winning author and scholar Ayesha S Chaudhry will discuss her latest book, The Colour of God: A Story of Family and Faith which tells the story of growing up in a Muslim household in Canada.

The conversation will touch on the themes of belief, migration and colonialism. Joining the author will be Shadaab Rahemtulla, Director of Equality and Diversity in the School of Divinity, and Radhika Govinda, Director of Gender.ED at the School of Social and Political Science.

Playwright Merryn Glover, environmental campaigner Alastair McIntosh, and Alistair Moffat, former Director of Programmes at Scottish Television – all of whom have had books published by Scottish independent publisher Birlinn – will share reflections on their work on the landscape of Scotland in a panel discussion. The event is chaired by the Rev Dr Richard Frazer, minister of Greyfriars Kirk.

Elsewhere author and former Leader of the Iona Community, Kathy Galloway will discuss her book – a social history of west and central Scotland called This is Who We Are – with feminist historian, writer and activist, Dr Lesley Orr.

Theologian and bestselling author Alister McGrath will introduce his recent edited volume, Coming to Faith through Dawkins.  This event will be chaired by Alex Chow, Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of World Christianity at the School of Divinity.

Award-winning essayist and critic Ben Hutchinson shares insights from his recent works, The Midlife Mind: Literature and the Art of Ageing, and On Purpose: Ten Lessons on the Meaning of Life, in a conversation with Professor Jeremy Carrette, Head of the School of Divinity.

Eve Poole OBE, author and interim Chief Executive of the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, will discuss her books, Leadersmithing: Revealing the Trade Secrets of Leadership, and Robot Souls: Programming in Humanity. The event will be chaired by the University Rector, Debora Kayembe.

Poet and novelist Emma Strang, author of Quinn and Bird Woman, which won the Saltire Poetry Book of the Year 2017 and Victoria Mackenzie, whose debut novel, For Thy Great Pain Have Mercy On My Little Pain was a Guardian Book of the Day and a Times Book of the Month, will share what inspires their work at an event chaired by Linden Bicket, of the School of Divinity.

Festival Director, Professor Alison Jack, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Divinity, said: “We are delighted to open the doors of New College for this illuminating programme of events offering insights, personal stories and new perspectives.”

Many events are free and all are ticketed. For further information and bookings go to: 

Life and Work is the magazine of the Church of Scotland. Subscribe here.


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