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Fears and Fascinations

Representing Catholicism in the American South

Thomas Haddox

Publication Year: 2005

This innovative book charts what has been a largely unexplored literary landscape, looking at the work of such diverse writers as the gens de couleur libre poets of antebellum New Orleans, Kate Chopin, Mark Twain, Carson McCullers, Margaret Mitchell, Allen Tate, Caroline Gordon, Flannery O'Connor, Walker Percy, and John Kennedy Toole. Haddox shows that Catholicism and its Church have always been a presence, albeit in different ways, in the southern cultural tradition. For some, Catholicism has been associated with miscegenation and with the political aspirations of African-Americans; for others, it has served as the model for the feudal and patriarchal society that some southern whites sought to establish; for still others, it has presented a gorgeous aesthetic spectacle associated with decadence and homoeroticism; and for still others, it has marked a quotidian, do-it-yourself lifestyleattractive for its lack of concern with southern anxieties about honor. By focusing on the shifting and contradictory ways Catholicism has signified within southern literature and culture, Fears and Fascinations contributes to a more nuanced understanding of American and southern literary and cultural history.Thomas F. Haddox is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He has published articles in American Literature, Mosaic, Modern Language Quarterly, Southern Quarterly, Mississippi Quarterly, and Walt Whitman Quarterly Review.

Published by: Fordham University Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv

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pp. vii-viii

This book has been seven years in the making and has gone through several incarnations. The English department of Vanderbilt University generously funded a year of relief from teaching, and the English department of the University of Tennessee provided me with a summer grant that enabled me to travel to libraries. Both institutions also provided supportive environments...


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p. ix

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pp. 1-13

‘‘He is the one who is curious to me.’’1 Jason Compson Sr.’s offhand remark about Charles Bon identifies a persistent source of fascination in William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! ‘‘Curious’’ Bon certainly is: as Thomas Sutpen’s unacknowledged son and wrecker of his dynastic ‘‘design,’’ a man of French ethnicity and uncertain race, a languorous and fatalistic decadent,...

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Chapter 1: Catholic Miscegenations: The Cultural Legacy of Les Cenelles

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pp. 14-46

In 1845 a group of seventeen free Creoles of color in New Orleans published Les Cenelles (The Holly Berries), a volume of lyric poems in French. The fruit of an endeavor that had begun two years before with the establishment of L’album litteraire, the first ‘‘little magazine’’ in Louisiana, Les Cenelles emphasizes its communal production and adheres closely to a shared romantic...

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Chapter 2: Medieval Yearnings: A Catholicism for Whites in Nineteenth-Century Southern Literature

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pp. 47-81

Of the many attempts to explain the causes of the American Civil War, Mark Twain’s assigning of the blame to Sir Walter Scott is among the wryest—second, perhaps, only to Abraham Lincoln’s judgment that Harriet Beecher Stowe was responsible. According to Twain’s attack on Scott in Life on the Mississippi, at the beginning of the nineteenth century both North...

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Chapter 3: The Pleasures of Decadence: Catholicism in Kate Chopin, Carson McCullers, and Anne Rice

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pp. 82-111

Since the 1970s, when Kate Chopin’s fiction began to be rediscovered by feminist critics, the initial reception of The Awakening has passed into literary history as the story of a great but unsurprising atrocity. According to this narrative, a gifted writer, successful as a local colorist, is effectively silenced when she undertakes her greatest work because her contemporaries, blinded...

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Chapter 4: Agrarian Catholics: The Catholic Turn in Southern Literature

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pp. 112-144

Is Flannery O’Connor best viewed as a southern writer or as a Catholic writer? This question may appear willfully reductive, but it marks a divide that refuses to go away. Even after several decades of attention to her work, O’Connor’s critics can be grouped into those who read her primarily through a theological lens (often casting themselves as faithful exegetes or...

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Chapter 5: Toward Catholicism as Lifestyle: Walker Percy, John Kennedy Toole, and Rebecca Wells

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pp. 145-184

During the decade from 1955 to 1965, the civil rights movement emerged as a major political force in the South, and despite fierce resistance from southern whites, it began to achieve success. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 abolished de jure racial segregation and ensured black southerners’ right to vote, thus sounding the death knell of...


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pp. 185-203

Works Cited

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pp. 205-217


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pp. 219-225

E-ISBN-13: 9780823247813
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823225217
Print-ISBN-10: 0823225216

Page Count: 236
Publication Year: 2005

OCLC Number: 71010441
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Fears and Fascinations

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • American literature -- Southern States -- History and criticism
  • Southern States -- Religion -- Historiography.
  • Christianity and literature -- Southern States.
  • Catholic Church -- Southern States -- Historiography.
  • Catholics in literature.
  • Catholic Church -- In literature.
  • Catholics -- Southern States -- Intellectual life.
  • American literature -- Catholic authors -- History and criticism
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