Landscapes of Encounter: The Portrayal of Catholicism in the Novels of Brian Moore

By Moran, Maureen | British Journal of Canadian Studies, September 2003 | Go to article overview

Landscapes of Encounter: The Portrayal of Catholicism in the Novels of Brian Moore


Moran, Maureen, British Journal of Canadian Studies


Liam Gearon, Landscapes of Encounter: The Portrayal of Catholicism in the Novels of Brian Moore (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2002), xvi + 296pp. Cloth. $49.95. ISBN 1-5523-8048-3.

While Brian Moore's Catholic themes have long featured in biocritical approaches to his work, Leon Gearon's crisply written and thought-provoking consideration of the theological and ideological tensions in Moore's fiction offers a valuable new perspective. Gearon persuasively demonstrates that the theological underpinning of the novels is to be understood in relation to pre- and post- Vatican 11 'versions' of Catholicism, seen through the lens of contemporary postcolonial theory. Gearon argues that Moore's corpus serves as a 'record [of ] the transformation of the grandnarrative [sic] of Catholic tradition in conflict and in dialogue with the "other"'. As the post-Vatican 11 Church warmed to interaction with the wider world and to issues of egalitarianism and social justice, so Moore's work ventured into diverse geographical and cultural landscapes with a more sympathetic representation of the Catholic faith.

It is this relationship between 'metaphysical' and 'physical dimensions of place' that provides Gearon with his argumentative structure. His treatment of the commonplace critical link between religion and colonialism is given a fresh angle by his analysis of the characteristics of the pre-Vatican 11 Church with its 'authoritarianism', 'hierarchical domination' and 'insularity.' In this context he shows how Moore's early Irish novels present a theologically, politically and culturally narrow environment against which protagonists rebel. The early North American novels pit Catholicism against the modern world in a different way. Secularism, symbolised by economic success, aesthetic achievement, or psychosexual fulfilment, is portrayed as a healthier way to identity formation than dependence on a stultifying religious faith. …

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