Between Human and Divine
The Catholic Vision in Contemporary Literature
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: The Catholic University of America Press
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Flannery O’Connor once remarked that all fiction that portrays reality as it is truly seen and experienced in the world may be considered Catholic fiction.1 I have long been pondering this statement because there is, in its essence, something quite accurate about it. If a close and contemplative gaze on human beings interacting with their world is the authors’ domain, then a writer, no matter what his or her religious beliefs, shares that which ...
1. Shades of Redemption in Alice McDermott’s Novels
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It would be hard to imagine a course offered in American Catholic literature today that did not include one of Alice McDermott’s novels. Because she draws on her Irish-Catholic background for many of her novels’ settings, they are replete with references to the Mass, rosaries, novenas, and the rituals and sacramentals that give the Catholicism she has been immersed in most of her life its distinctive character. ...
2. How Far Can You Go? to Therapy: Catholicism and Postmodernism in the Novels of David Lodge
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In an article written in 1988, Terry Eagleton, the Marxist critic, pointed out that the novelist David Lodge’s Catholicism was ambiguous and “almost wholly unmarked by spiritual passion.”1 Though he continued to go to Mass until 1992, Lodge has confirmed his ambivalence by calling himself an ...
3. “Descending Theology”: The Poetry of Mary Karr
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Mary Karr’s most recent volume of poems, Sinners Welcome (2006), confirms the depth at which her conversion to Catholicism in 1996 has taken imaginative root. Karr’s first two volumes of poetry, Abacus (1987) and The Devil’s Tour (1993), assess, even more intimately than her bestselling memoirs of childhood and adolescence ...
4. An Irish Catholic Novel?: The Example of Brian Mooreand John McGahern
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The issue of Catholicism is a fraught one in Ireland, a nation that only secured autonomy from British colonial rule in 1921 after centuries of strife and rebellion, much of which was the result of the attempts by the Empire to force the indigenous population to abandon their Catholic faith in favor of Anglicanism. ...
5. The Never-Ending Reformation: Miguel Delibes’s The Heretic
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Together with Graham Greene (1904–91) and Heinrich Böll (1917–85), Spanish author Miguel Delibes (1920– ) ranks as one of the most prominent European Catholic writers of the second half of the twentieth century. His work El hereje, or The Heretic (1998; English translation 2006), is his testament as a novelist and a summary of many issues that preoccupied him throughout his writing career. ...
6. Some Contexts for Current Catholic Women’s Memoir: Patricia Hampl and Her Contemporaries
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“The memoir,” Patricia Hampl tells us, “once considered a marginal literary form, has emerged in the past decade as the signature genre of the age.”1 Of course, this news is brought to us in a memoir about memoir, Hampl’s signature genre. Nevertheless, the recent proliferation of the memoir and fiction disguised as memoir (for example, Memoirs of a Geisha; Confessions of a Wall Street Shoeshine Boy; ...
7. “A Ransom of Cholers”: Catastrophe, Consolation, and Catholicism in Jon Hassler’s Staggerford, North of Hope, and The Life and Death of Nancy Clancy’s Nephew
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As they have about Graham Greene, Flannery O’Connor, and André Dubus, critics disagree about whether to call Minnesota author Jon Hassler a “Catholic novelist.” In this essay I skirt that formulation of the question, proposing that, whatever his conscious (or unconscious) intentions, Hassler’s worldview—as we can infer it from his work ...
8. Our Litany: The Varied Voices and Common Vision of Three Contemporary Catholic Poets
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There was a time not very long ago when Catholic poets, novelists, and playwrights were as much a part of the American and English literary landscape as writers of any other stripe; a time when one would not have to go searching to find a prominent Catholic author, and that writer would not have to blush when found. Consider the literary presence and prominence of but a few of the Catholic authors ...
9. Graham Greene’s Monsignor Quixote: A Pilgrimage of Doubt and Reason toward Faith and Belief
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The 1978 Christmas issue of the British Catholic journal The Tablet included a short story, “How Father Quixote Became a Monsignor,” subsequently revised to become the first chapter of Graham Greene’s last major novel, Monsignor Quixote, published in 1982. Set in post-Franco Spain, both short story and novel mischievously ...
10. Contemporary British Catholic Writers: Alice Thomas Ellis, Piers Paul Read, William Brodrick, and Jonathan Tulloch
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Despite an ongoing and widespread distrust of Catholicism, Britain in the mid–eighteen hundreds was no longer the Protestant police state it had been in the worst penal years. The second half of the eighteenth century and the early decades of the nineteenth saw the growth of a more tolerant climate of opinion and the consequent introduction of certain reforms. ...
11. The Contemporary Catholic Bildungsroman: Passionate Conviction in Shūsaku Endō’s The Samurai and Mary Gordon’s Men and Angels
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My aim in this chapter is to use a traditional genre approach to shed light on aspects of two novels published during the same decade, the 1980s, by Catholic authors who are separated by geographical, national, and linguistic boundaries. Born in Tokyo in 1923, the Japanese author Shūsaku Endō was baptized into the Catholic faith as a boy by his mother, who had converted to Roman Catholicism. ...
12. Art with Its Largesse and Its Own Restraint”: The Sacramental Poetics of Elizabeth Jennings and Les Murray
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In the peroration to his Lectures on Poetry, delivered in the first half of the nineteenth century, John Keble, the Anglican poet and priest, declared, “Poetry lends religion her wealth of symbols and similes; religion restores them again to poetry, clothed with so splendid a radiance that they appear to be no longer symbols, but to partake (I might almost say) of the nature of sacraments.”1 ...
13 The Estrangement of Emilio Sandoz, S.J.: Othering in Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow
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The mere mention of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuit order, evokes strong responses, both positive and negative, among those who know the name. Even the Oxford English Dictionary, based on popular usage, gives “a dissembling person; a prevaricator” as one definition of “Jesuit.” These ambiguous feelings are not confined to members of the Roman Catholic faith, to whom the Jesuits belong. ...
14. Restoring the Imago Dei: Transcendental Realism in the Fiction of Michael D. O’Brien
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Catholic fiction in Canada has often been marked by a strong integral humanism. Contemporary Canadian writers such as Morley Callaghan and Hugh Hood both acknowledged the seminal influence the philosophy of Jacques Maritain exerted on their work, especially his emphasis on the dignity of the human person rooted in the Incarnation. ...
15. Maiden Mothers and Little Sisters: The Convent Novel Grows Up
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It appears at first glance that the convent girl is a figure lost to contemporary Catholic fiction. The convent itself, as a literary setting, suggests the quaintness of a castle, the mysterious and silent remains of old oppressions. Without its inhabitants, the cloister is but a curiosity, a relic with none but emblematic meaning in fiction. In late-twentieth- and early-twenty-first-century fiction,...
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About the Editor and Contributors
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Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2011