To Promote, Defend, and Redeem: The Catholic Literary Revival and the Cultural Transformation of American Catholicism, 1920-1960

By Arnold Sparr ; Henry Warner Bowden | Go to book overview
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Introduction

The expression "Catholic literary revival in America" has two dimensions in this study. First, it refers to the impact of the modern resurgence in European Catholic thought and letters upon the American Church between 1920 and 1960. Under the influence of Wilfrid Ward William George Ward and the Catholic Revival ( 1893) and Abbé Jean Calvet Le Renouveau Catholique ( 1927), 1 historians traditionally have characterized this intensification of late nineteenth and early twentieth century European Catholic intellectual life as the "Catholic renaissance" or the "Catholic revival."

This work additionally studies American Catholic educational and literary leaders' attempts to induce a similar flowering of Catholic life and culture in their own country--in short, to foster a Catholic "literary revival" in America. 2 The movement thus had both intellectual and organizational aspects. It was the awakening of American Catholics to their modern intellectual and cultural heritage as the achievements of the English, French, and German Catholic revivals were communicated to America. But it was also a movement by a self-conscious American Catholic cultural community to realize its own share of modern Catholic thinkers, writers, and poets. Strongest at the revival's outset in the 1920s, this self-conscious element in Catholic American intellectual life nevertheless continued into the 1950s.

Employing the Catholic literary revival in America as its framework, this study maintains that American Catholic intellectual and cultural life between 1920 and 1960 was driven by three forces: to promote the intellectual standing of American Catholicism, to defend the Catholic faith

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