Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Irish Catholic Writers and the Invention of the American South

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Irish Catholic Writers and the Invention of the American South

Article excerpt

Irish Catholic Writers and the Invention of the American South. By Biyan Giemza. [Southern Literary Studies.] (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. 2013. Pp. xiv, 361. $49.95 clothbound, ISBN 978-0-8071-5090-0; $39.95 paperback, ISBN 978-0-8071-59091-7.)

Our understanding of the Irish Catholic presence in the American South has substantially changed over the last couple of decades due to scholarly investigations in a number of areas. The presumption of a solid "Scotch-Irish"-the usual term- hegemony has been modified by awareness that Catholic and Protestant identities in the north of Ireland and in Scotland were often fluid in the eighteenth century, that over the decades many nominal Irish Catholics morphed into Scotch-Irish Protestants because of the unavailability of churches of their own denomination in the Southern states, and that there were hosts of other migratory forgettings and anomalies. Of course, one should always have been a little suspicious of a solid South thesis in a world shaped by Father Abraham Ryan, the region's hugely pop- ular poet laureate in the nineteenth century; Kate O'Flaherty Chopin, disruptive feminist and unconventional Catholic; Scarlett O'Hara, iconic Southern belle; and Flannery O'Connor (a distant relation of Margaret Mitchell, as it turns out), a writer who dominated the genre of the Southern short story. In the past, an American Catholicism that was both defensive and triumphalist occasionally drew attention to some of these matters, whereas the idea of a "Celtic South" enjoyed surprising (and disturbing) popularity in the 1980s. Albert S. Foley's challenging 1950s study of the biracial Healys of Georgia-one of them the "second founder" of Georgetown University-introduced a complication in the received narrative of minimal Irish Catholic Southern presence but without changing the overall understanding of the matter.

What is new now is the emergence of a more mature and less belligerent examination of tangled histories. Brian Giemza is one of the most active scholars in this area with a previous study of Ryan (. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.