Brookes expert on blasphemy to speak at Hay Literary Festival

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Dr David Nash gives talk on history of blasphemy at this year's festival.

Oxford Brookes Historian, Dr David Nash, will be speaking on the history of blasphemy at the prestigious Hay Literary Festival on Thursday 29 May.

A leading international scholar on the subject, Dr Nash's latest book 'Blasphemy in the Christian World' traces the origins and development of blasphemy from Medieval times to the present day.

The topic has been under the spotlight in recent months with parliament debating the abolition of blasphemy law earlier in the year on grounds it was outdated and no longer used. With the recent passing of the Criminal Justice Act, it will be abolished in England and Wales with effect from July 8 2008.

'Blasphemy still remains significantly in the limelight since it will now be policed with laws in the UK against incitement to religious hatred,' says Dr Nash. 'It has also been the subject of controversy within the United Nations, since the International Declaration of Human Rights has recently been altered so that it seeks to monitor so–called 'abuses' of freedom of speech. This will invariably mean that criticism of religion may yet be considered blasphemy.'

'I'm immensely pleased to be involved in this year's festival which has a formidable reputation and a star studded guest list,' he adds. 'In my talk, I'll be discussing the changing perceptions of blasphemy in society right up to modern times.

'It is particularly important to be speaking about this subject at a literary festival since writers and artists so frequently find themselves at the cutting edge of the free speech debate. Blasphemy asks society to take everything it reads and hears literally - writers and artists use irony, wit, allegory and metaphor to express themselves. Concepts like blasphemy are a potential challenge to this form of expression.'

Dr Nash will be interviewed on BBC Radio 4's The World Tonight on Friday 30 May as part of the Hay Literary Festival coverage.

David Nash is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and an officer of the Social History Society of Great Britain. Read his staff profile.

'Blasphemy in the Christian World' is published by Oxford University Press.