Fears and Fascinations: Representing Catholicism in the American South

Synopsis

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 "lifestyle" attractive 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.