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Book Edited by Charlene Burns Breaks New Ground in Interdisciplinary Publishing

RELEASED: Aug. 28, 2009

Mis/Representing evil: Evil in an Interdisciplinary Key book coverEAU CLAIRE — Dr. Charlene Burns, an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, worked with 15 scholars from eight different countries as the editor of a newly released book, "Mis/Representing Evil: Evil in an Interdisciplinary Key," published by Inter-Disciplinary Press of Oxford, U.K.

Burns, who also contributed her own essay, "Intimations of Coherence: Inter-Religious Reflections of Evil and the Goodness of God," to the book, faced a significant challenge in editing this volume.

"I believe, however, that what we have achieved here belongs to a new stage in interdisciplinary publishing," Burns wrote in her preface to the book, which she describes as an "exploration of evil and its manifestations across cultures and disciplines." The difference, Burns explained, is that this is not just a collection of individually edited essays.

All of the book's 15 chapters began as papers presented at the Ninth Global Conference on Evil and Human Wickedness held in March 2008 in Salzburg, Austria. The annual conference is sponsored by Inter-Disciplinary.Net, a non-profit network that brings together people of many different professions from all over the globe to explore important questions in human experience. Papers were nominated and voted on by all the conference participants for inclusion in this volume, and the ones selected represent contributions from fields as diverse as philosophy, religious studies, psychology, theology, theatre arts, literature, and media and communication studies.

Following the conference, Burns was asked by Inter-Disciplinary.Net to coordinate the efforts of all contributors in significantly reworking their papers to engage with and develop connections to the ideas of at least one or two of the other contributors, producing a genuinely interdisciplinary work. And although all the reworking and editing proved difficult, even daunting at times, Burns said she enjoyed her role and made every effort to encourage contributors to use lucid prose that would make even sophisticated ideas clear to a generally well-educated public, rather than only to other specialists in the represented fields.

"The problems of evil and suffering are subjects of importance to everyone, everywhere, so engagement of these issues through scholarship is important," Burns said. "But our work can be helpful and relevant only if it is understandable," Burns said.

The book is divided into five parts and moves with a gradually narrowing focus from larger cosmological questions of good and evil to issues of power and politics, moral responsibility in literature and news reporting, language and personal accountability, and the ways evil is portrayed in popular culture and entertainment. The 15 contributors come from the United States, Canada, Australia, England, Ireland, Poland, Slovenia and the Netherlands, bringing a cross-cultural perspective to the ideas presented therein.

"In some ways, the work to bring about this volume was more challenging than researching and writing my two previous books," Burns said. "Interdisciplinary work offers its own set of challenges, but when you add layers of cross-cultural and language differences, it becomes really complicated. Once we resolved discipline-specific issues, we had to tackle problems that came up because of language difficulties. In some cases it took a great deal of careful collaboration to accurately capture an author's meaning in English. We learned quite a lot from one another and about interdisciplinary scholarship. All the authors agreed that our own individual work has been enriched by this effort, and we hope to be able to work together on another project in the future."

"Mis/Representing Evil: Evil in an Interdisciplinary Key" is available online from Inter-Disciplinary.Net.

For more information, contact Burns at 715-836-2930 or burnscp@uwec.edu.

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NW/DW

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