ENGLISH 473 - Topics in American Literature
Section: 001 The Catholic Novel
Term: FA 2019
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
May be repeated for a maximum of 6 credit(s). May be elected more than once in the same term.
Primary Instructor:

Can a decent, happy person suffer damnation? Can a corrupt and addicted priest do the work of God? How does one become a prophet or a saint – in modern America? What does it mean to be “shocked” into grace – or “lulled” into sin? How can one tell good from evil? What is at stake?

We define a “Catholic novel” not by the religious beliefs or identity of its author but rather by how closely the mainspring of its dramatic action depends upon Roman Catholic ideas and/or theology. A significant literary achievement, the flowering of the Catholic novel started when the isolation of Roman Catholic communities around the world began to break down in the late nineteenth century, and it tapered off around the time of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s when the Church was said to have “joined the modern world.” Catholic novels do not, as a general rule, proselytize – they are written by authors not evangelists – but they do tell powerful stories about people exercising free will in a fallen world, about the nature and apparent silence of God, about incarnation and atonement, and of course about temptation, sin, and redemption. These novels are about nothing less than the meaning and purpose of life from a Catholic point of view. Our reading list will begin with two influential 1930s novels from France and England (François Mauriac’s Vipers’ Tangle and Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory) before settling into 1960s American works (including Flannery O’Connor’s The Violent Bear It Away, Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer, and J.F. Powers’ Morte d’Urban). We will begin with an excellent recent survey of Catholic thought (Thomas Joseph White’s The Light of Christ: An Introduction to Catholicism). All are welcome: religious, agnostic, atheist, non-Christian, just reading, Catholic-curious, and “questioning.” Our classroom will be a safe space for discussions of First Causes and Last Days, among other neglected topics.

ENGLISH 473 - Topics in American Literature
Schedule Listing
001 (REC)
TuTh 2:30PM - 4:00PM
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