Allen Tate and the Catholic Revival: Trace of the Fugitive Gods

By Sparr, Arnold | The Catholic Historical Review, January 1998 | Go to article overview

Allen Tate and the Catholic Revival: Trace of the Fugitive Gods


Sparr, Arnold, The Catholic Historical Review


Allen Tate and the Catholic Revival: Trace of the Fugitive Gods. By Peter A. Huff. [Isaac Hecker Studies in Religion and American Culture.] (Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Pres. 19%. Pp. xv, 159. $14.95 paperback.)

Allen Tate (1899-1979) was perhaps twentieth-century American Catholicism's most notable literary convert, foreordained by some Catholic enthusiasts at the time of his 1950 conversion as "their century's Newman."

By demonstrating that the values of the Catholic intellectual renaissance of the 1920's and 1930's both inspired the conversion and enlarged the aesthetic and moral vision of one of America's leading men of letters, Peter A. Huff again upholds the necessity of treating the Catholic Revival as an important and distinct twentieth-century intellectual event.

Huff's approach is both literary and historical. Chapter 1 presents a concise overview of the revival in both its European and American contexts. Chapters 2 and 3 address the young Tate's Vanderbilt University years, his leadership in the restorationist Southern Agrarian Movement, and Tate's own attribution of the modern dilemma to the intellectual and moral ambiguity of his age.Tate's evolving intellectual encounter with the ideas of Christopher Dawson, G. K. Chesterton,T. S. Eliot and other conservative Roman and Anglo-Catholic critics is also explored. Chapter 4 illustrates the impact of the Catholic Revival upon Tate's own religious and literary imagination and his self-conscious embrace of the role of Catholic critic.The final chapter relates Tate's uneasy personal and professional relationship with a changing postconciliar Church.

There is much that is original in this book. It is the first systematic analysis of the relationship between the Catholic Revival and an American literary intellectual.Tate himself serves as an interesting organizing figure through which Huff addresses the many diverse elements of the revival-intellectual, cultural, and aesthetic. …

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