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

8
Frank O'Malley: Thinker, Critic, Revivalist

Following the death of Notre Dame University English Professor Frank O'Malley in May 1974, one of his former students wrote:

I read in the June issue of Notre Dame Magazine that Frank O'Malley was dead. A likely story. . . . Frank O'Malley dead? Preposterous. Leon Bloy lives. So does Georges Bernanos, Charles Peguy, Karl Adam, Ignatio Saloni and Paul Claudel. . . . Shakespeare, Kierkegaard, Chaucer, Maritain dead? Ridiculous. . . . Frank O'Malley dead? I don't believe it. He was seen alive and well a few days ago, talking to "Mr. Blue." 1

This touching tribute was but one of many paid to O'Malley by Notre Dame faculty, students, and alumni at the time, representing an out- pouring of affection equaled, perhaps, only by the deep-felt sense of loss that accompanied the death of Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne some forty years earlier. Indeed, on a campus almost overrun with legendary figures, some argue that the painfully shy, enigmatic, red-haired O'Malley stood second only to Rockne as an influence upon Notre Dame students in that school's history.

O'Malley is best remembered for the "Modern Catholic Writers" course he designed and taught for over thirty-five years at Notre Dame. It was by far the most popular course in the humanities ever offered at the university, and even attracted notice from Time magazine, where in 1962 O'Malley was described as Notre Dame's "most inspiring undergraduate teacher." 2

"Modern Catholic Writers" began in 1936 and was similar in purpose and scope to the many other courses in "Modern Catholic Literature,"

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