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humanities 329 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 LAVORATO) Liam Gearon. Landscapes of Encounter: The Portrayal of Catholicism in the Novels of Brian Moore University of Calgary Press. xvi, 296. $49.95 Brian Moore=s novels have always straddled the boundaries: between Irish, Canadian, and American; between popular and literary; between religious and secular fiction. As Liam Gearon=s preface points out, however, despite the relative critical neglect Moore has suffered because of literary and national exclusions, there have been a number of studies that have treated his works primarily from a biocritical perspective. In contrast, Gearon=s >hermeneutical key= unlocks Moore=s fictions as >literary reflections on a Catholic world undergoing radical transformation= before and after the Second Vatican Council (1962B65). He discounts biographical debates about Moore=s personal religious faith (or lack of it) to analyse the >literarytheological intertextuality= and the importance of >landscape= (as cultural representations of place) in his novels. Gearon thus combines theology and postcolonial theory to examine Moore=s fictional >landscapes of encounter= as portraying the modern movement of Roman Catholicism from cultural hegemony to sites of ideological plurality. In five central chapters Gearon gives detailed close readings of Moore=s nineteen novels (space limitations preclude mention of all their titles in this review), situating them within his developing argument about the particular convergence of Moore=s (counter)narratives and the >grandnarrative of Catholic tradition.= Both in his early novels set in Ireland (1955 to 1965) and in his early novels set in North America (1960 to 1971), the protagonists rebel against a dogmatic, authoritative, preBVatican II Catholic church within the respective sites of sectarian Catholicism in Belfast and secular materialism in Montreal, New York, and California. Although Gearon recognizes that traces of Moore=s boyhood preBVatican II Catholicism remain in his novels decades after the most massive transformation in the history of the Catholic church, the longest section of his book analyses the increasing complexity and plurality in Moore=s portrayal of Catholicism after 1971. Catholics (1972) heralds the change with a futuristic revolution of the Irish church after an imaginary Vatican IV. Moore continues to revision an increasingly secularized, marginalized, and politicized Catholicism in four more novels set in Northern Ireland from 1976 to 1990. At the same time, according to Gearon, he portrays, within the secularity of North America, >an increasingly sympathetic portrayal of Catholicism= from a postcolonial perspective in three novels from 1974 to 1985. Gearon identifies three commonalities between postBVatican II theology and postcolonialism that he foregrounds in these fictions: >an 330 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 emphasis on historical perspective in the analysis of social-structural inequality ; an identity with the marginalized and oppressed Aother@; and a radical, social interpretation of texts.= Four of Moore=s final novels (from 1987 to 1997) are set in neither Ireland nor North America. Gearon sees his enlargement of the >landscapes of encounter= to include Eastern and Western Europe, the Caribbean, and North Africa, and relations between Catholicism and both Judaism and Islam, as evidence not only of postcolonial perspectives but also postBVatican II radical doctrines of egalitarian ecclesiology, universalist soteriology, and liberation theology. In this book Gearon makes a very convincing argument for the evolving portrayal of Catholic theology in the novels of Brian Moore, >a committed non-believer.= He subjects Moore to a serious literary (as opposed to biocritical) analysis, balancing lucid, jargon-free theoretical contexts with careful close readings of the texts. His thesis is clearly organized and articulated, if somewhat repetitive (at least three times for each point). His bibliography and endnotes indicate a comprehensive background for his study. In the difficult congruence of Catholic doctrine and postcolonial diversity, Gearon makes a good case for Moore=s liberation theology (although, in his reading of The Magician=s Wife, stressing the coincidence of 1962 as the year marking both Algerian independence and Vatican II seems a bit far fetched). Somewhat surprisingly, Gearon does not use the expected terms >metanarrative/counternarrative= or >sites of resistance,= and his >landscapes of encounter= do not mention the context (or criticisms) of Mircea Eliade=s similar >sacred spaces.= But...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 329-330
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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