American Catholic Arts and Fictions: Culture, Ideology, Aesthetics

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Paul Giles describes how secular transformations of religious ideas have helped to shape the style and substance of works by American writers, filmmakers and artists from Catholic backgrounds such as Orestes Brownson, Theodore Dreiser, Mary McCarthy, Robert Mapplethorpe, Alfred Hitchcock and Robert Altman. The book also explores how Catholicism was represented and mythologized by other American writers. By highlighting the recurring themes and preoccupations of American Catholic fictions, Giles challenges many of the accepted ideas about the centrality of Romanticism to the American literary canon. He reconstructs the different social, historical, and philosophical contexts from which aesthetics in the "Catholic" tradition have emerged, and shows how these stand in an oblique relationship to the assumptions of the American Enlightenment.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The true originality of what this book argues is in what it says about America, not about Catholicism....Giles's opus will be useful to people interested in a new perspective on many of the filmmakers, novelists, and poets discussed." Christianity and Literature

" ambitious and insightful exploration of how Catholic culture in the United States has created a consistent, though complex, alternative to what Quentin Anderson called the American doctrine of 'the imperial self'." Commonweal

"Remarkably telling insights abound in this book that addresses a dimension of American culture that has been too long overlooked." Nineteenth-Century Literature

"[Giles's] historical methodology is elaborate and his scholarship abundant...." Journal of American History

"Students of American Catholic literature and history will read Paul Giles's American Catholic Arts and Fictions: Culture, Ideology, Aesthetics with a deep sense of gratitude for his unprecedented effort to apply the insights of contemporary literary theory to an astonishing variety of Catholic texts....I was moved by the respectful intensty the author brings to his study of artists richly deserving of such elegant treatment. American Catholic Arts and Fictions is a remarkable achievement as well as a historical event." James T. Fisher, Modern Language Quarterly

"Paul Giles's study of Catholic writing and film in America is a very encouraging development in religion and literature studies in relation to American literature and culture. Critics have long wondered about Catholic literature in America: where it is and why isn't it? Giles shows that there is an American Catholic literature and shows us where to find the Catholic presence at its most interesting....Giles has attempted something very difficult and in the process created a whole new field of study. He has synthesized an alternative American cultural tradition that is funnier, more gregarious, and more accepting of our limited human condition than the better-advertised Protestant-romantic tradition that begins with Emerson." Mark Krupnick, Journal of Religion

"American Catholic Arts and Fictions: Culture, Ideology, Aesthetics is a tour de force, a magisterial study of Catholicism and the American arts. But its subject is not limited to religion. American Catholic Arts and Fictions offers a thoughtful meditation on ideology and aesthetics that is lucid, engaging, provocative, elegant, subtle. This is a book that is ambitious without being self-aggrandizing, politically engaged without being tendentious. In addition, Giles handles complex theological questions deftly, and he does so while meeting the highest standards of cultural criticism. But most importantly, Giles has achieved the rare feat of reorienting the cultural landscape in such a way that it will be hard to read the literature of this century in quite the same manner again." Jonathan Veitch, Contemporary Literature

"American Catholic Arts and Fictions is in many ways an illuminating study, one that deserves a wide readership among Americanists." Religion and the Arts

"This is a very important work of cultural criticism that belongs in every college library, Catholic or not." AMCA Newsletter

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Product Details

Table of Contents

Preface; Part I. Old Icons in a New Land: Part II. The Ironies of Modernism: Part III. Poetry of Confession and Apostasy: Part IV. Iconography and the Cinema of Catholicism: Part V. Postmodernism and the Novel of Displacement: Part VI. Legalism and the Fictions of Society.

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