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Seeing Rainbows: Queer Swedenborgians and Queering Swedenborg

A Virtual Educational Offering for the Planet with Dr. Devin Zuber, Associate Professor Center for Swedenborgian Studies, GTU.
Free online webinar.
Meets over six Tuesdays, from 3:00—5:00 PM Pacific time, on the following dates in Spring 2023:
4/11, 4/18, 4/25, 5/2, 5/9, 5/16.

To register email

This 6-part public seminar is built around of a set of interrelated questions. How can we constructively read the 18th century theologies of Emanuel Swedenborg in ways that are affirming and supportive of LGBTQ+ persons? Where in Swedenborg might we find places for queer folk to feel themselves supported and spiritually at-home? To query and “queer” Swedenborg requires, firstly, firmly situating his ideas of gender and sexuality within their 18th century contexts that gave shape and rise to his theology. Secondly, the seminar aims to recover a surprising, untold story of how Swedenborg’s ideas about gender and sexuality came to be subsequently received by writers and artists, some of them queer, in ways that were often unconventional (and non-heteronormative). Here, we will attempt to trace a lineage of “queer readings” of Swedenborg in figures such as the Romantic poet (and painter) William Blake, in novels by the French author Honoré de Balzac (particularly his gender-bending Seraphita), in work by the American feminists Margaret Fuller and Julia Ward Howe, as well as in the Regionalist fiction of the lesbian writer Sarah Orne Jewett. We will also nod towards Swedenborgian resonances in more recent, contemporary queer aesthetics, such as in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. The seminar features some guest scholars who are experts on the history of sexuality and/or queer theory; we will also be engaging in conversation with contemporary LGBTQ+ Swedenborgians whose ministries lie at the intersection of queer identity and theological concerns.

Please note: this seminar is not an exercise in debating what Swedenborg said (or didn’t) about homosexuality, gender, or otherwise. Those who are interested in such a debate should seek it elsewhere. This class will engage practical and constructive theologies that are affirming of the experiences of those in the LGBTQ+ community and allies, through a full-spectrum lens on Swedenborgian theology and history.

Virtual Educational Offerings for the Planet: in the fall of 2020 in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, CSS launched a new collaborative online learning initiative. These learning modules are a form of MOOCs (massive open online courses) aimed at bringing scholarly and educational resources about Swedenborg and Swedenborgian theology to our broader, global, and increasingly interconnected communities. Our Virtual Education Modules are free to take and participate in, although pre-registration is required for access to webinar and course materials. To date, CSS has provided seven such Virtual Education Offerings for the Planet and engaged with hundreds of learners on topics that have ranged from climate change to biblical exegesis, from angels, aliens, & apocalypse, to the reception of Swedenborg in the arts and literature. Attendees have zoomed in from Europe, Asia, Africa, and from all over North America. Come join our global conversation!