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

2
Francis X. Talbot and the Catholic Literary "Emergence"

Three forces converged during the 1920s and early 1930s to provoke American Catholic attempts to stimulate a Catholic literary revival in the United States. First, a significant number of Catholic publicists, teachers, and literary critics felt compelled to prove both to themselves and to their detractors that Catholic intellectual and cultural life compared favorably with that of the rest of American society. Second, many Catholic leaders, especially those concerned with the education of Catholic youth, were convinced that the Catholic laity must become more knowledgeable about its faith and thereby more articulate in defending the Church against her critics. Third, many of these same cultural leaders believed that in a world menaced by the memories of war, depression, class struggle, and philosophical and spiritual decay, Catholic-Christian orthodoxy offered the only standards, the only fixed body of unchanging "truths" capable of saving the world from chaos.

Thus, the Catholic literary revival was born of a curious mixture of insecurity, protest, and apostolic mission. These forces operated throughout the revival, sometimes simultaneously, often at odds with each other, and frequently within the same individual or organization. Three of the earliest leaders of the revival--Jesuits Francis X. Talbot, literary editor of America, Daniel A. Lord, national director of the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin and editor of its organ, the Queen's Work, and Calvert Alexander, whose The Catholic Literary Revival ( 1935) stood as the era's most substantive analysis of the international Catholic literary movement--all revealed qualities of intellectual insecurity, opposition, and Christian vision. 1 Yet, each was unique in his approach to the re-

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