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All Good Books Are Catholic Books

Print Culture, Censorship, and Modernity in Twentieth-Century America

by Una M. Cadegan

Publication Year: 2013

Until the close of the Second Vatican Council in 1965, the stance of the Roman Catholic Church toward the social, cultural, economic, and political developments of the twentieth century was largely antagonistic. Naturally opposed to secularization, skeptical of capitalist markets indifferent to questions of justice, confused and appalled by new forms of high and low culture, and resistant to the social and economic freedom of women—in all of these ways the Catholic Church set itself up as a thoroughly anti-modern institution. Yet, in and through the period from World War I to Vatican II, the Church did engage with, react to, and even accommodate various aspects of modernity. In All Good Books Are Catholic Books, Una M. Cadegan shows how the Church’s official position on literary culture developed over this crucial period.

The Catholic Church in the United States maintained an Index of Prohibited Books and the National Legion of Decency (founded in 1933) lobbied Hollywood to edit or ban movies, pulp magazines, and comic books that were morally suspect. These regulations posed an obstacle for the self-understanding of Catholic American readers, writers, and scholars. But as Cadegan finds, Catholics developed a rationale by which they could both respect the laws of the Church as it sought to protect the integrity of doctrine and also engage the culture of artistic and commercial freedom in which they operated as Americans. Catholic literary figures including Flannery O’Connor and Thomas Merton are important to Cadegan’s argument, particularly as their careers and the reception of their work demonstrate shifts in the relationship between Catholicism and literary culture. Cadegan trains her attention on American critics, editors, and university professors and administrators who mediated the relationship among the Church, parishioners, and the culture at large.

Published by: Cornell University Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Thanks first, as is always most appropriate for historians, to the generous and knowledgeable archivists and librarians at so many places: especially Charlotte Ames, Kevin Cawley, and Wendy Clauson Schlereth at the University of Notre Dame; and many others at Boston College, the Archdiocese of Chicago, ...

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Introduction: The Cultural Work of Catholic Literature

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pp. 1-19

At the close and climax of James Joyce’s 1916 novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the protagonist Stephen Dedalus announces to himself and to the ages his newly embraced mission: “Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.”1 ...

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1. U.S. Catholic Literary Aesthetics

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pp. 20-46

In 1921, Condé B. Pallen published an article in America entitled “Free Verse.” Pallen by this time had been prominent in Catholic literary culture for decades. As editor of Church Progress and Catholic World of St. Louis, poet, literary scholar and critic, popular lecturer on literary topics, and managing editor of the Catholic Encyclopedia, ...

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2. Modernisms Literary and Theological

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pp. 47-63

A defining aspect of Catholic intellectual life in the 1920s was the 1907 Vatican condemnation of something termed “Modernism,” a set of theological positions the Vatican considered incompatible with Catholic belief. Although this condemnation did not deal quite the death blow to Catholic intellectual life that historians long maintained, ...

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3. Declining Oppositions

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pp. 64-84

It is probably not an accident that in George Shuster’s The Catholic Spirit in Modern English Literature the word “modernism” does not occur, despite the work’s appearing in modernism’s annus mirabilis, 1922, the year of publication for both Ulysses and The Waste Land. ...

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4. The History and Function of Catholic Censorship, as Told to the Twentieth Century

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pp. 85-103

Nothing could be clearer about U.S. Catholic literary culture in the years after the Great War than its interdependence with theology and philosophy in defining and evaluating literature. The resulting literary aesthetic drew multiple aspects of Catholic thought and experience into a powerful and flexible imaginative framework ...

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5. Censorship in the Land of “Thinking on One’s Own”

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pp. 104-122

Despite the various attempts at revising and modernizing the mechanisms and legal framework of censorship, by the time the 1917 Code of Canon Law was promulgated, even to many contemporaries censorship was an anachronism. Nevertheless, readers, writers, and other participants in the print culture of U.S. Catholicism were officially bound by it, ...

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6. Art and Freedom in the Era of “The Church of Your Choice”

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pp. 123-152

Censorship—the elaborate system of laws and institutional structures surrounding the regulation of publication and reading—reflected for better and worse the worldview that grounded Catholic literary culture and aesthetics. Because salvation, and therefore doctrinal truth and fidelity, were the highest goods, ...

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7. Reclaiming the Modernists, Reclaiming the Modern

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pp. 153-170

In 1948 the novelist Harry Sylvester published an article in the Atlantic Monthly entitled “Problems of the Catholic Writer.” Among these problems was the obligation that Catholics had to marry and raise a large family, depriving the writer of the solitude and silence necessary for writing, ...

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8. Peculiarly Possessed of the Modern Consciousness

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pp. 171-191

To say that by the 1950s Catholic writers and critics had reconciled an apparently unbridgeable modernist rift between orthodoxy and iconoclasm is to draw on some very old associations. The earliest uses of the verb “to reconcile” in English, in the late fourteenth century, referred to the reconciliation of humanity to God in Christ. ...

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Epilogue: The Abrogation of the Index

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pp. 192-196

There may seem to be a great distance between the abstractions of modernist oppositions—iconoclasm and orthodoxy, individual and community, innovation and repetition, openness and closure—and the ecclesial bureaucracy of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. ...


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pp. 197-220


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pp. 221-230

E-ISBN-13: 9780801468988
E-ISBN-10: 0801468981
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801451126
Print-ISBN-10: 0801451124

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1

OCLC Number: 858956124
MUSE Marc Record: Download for All Good Books Are Catholic Books

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Subject Headings

  • Catholic literature -- History and criticism.
  • Catholic literature -- Publishing -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Catholics -- United States -- Intellectual life -- 20th century.
  • Censorship -- Religious aspects -- Catholic Church.
  • Modernism (Christian theology) -- Catholic Church.
  • Catholic Church -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
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