Callista: A Tale of the Third Century

Overview

Callista is an arresting picture of Christian commitment under trial in the third century A.D. John Henry Newman's novel follows the moral and spiritual development of three very different characters caught up in the mysterious processes of divine Providence, who all fulfill their destinies through suffering and self-sacrifice. The Greek sculptress Callista, an exile from her native island in the Sea of Marmara, serves the cause of paganism by fashioning images of the gods. Agellius, her suitor, rediscovers his ...
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Callista, a tale of the third century

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Overview

Callista is an arresting picture of Christian commitment under trial in the third century A.D. John Henry Newman's novel follows the moral and spiritual development of three very different characters caught up in the mysterious processes of divine Providence, who all fulfill their destinies through suffering and self-sacrifice. The Greek sculptress Callista, an exile from her native island in the Sea of Marmara, serves the cause of paganism by fashioning images of the gods. Agellius, her suitor, rediscovers his Christian duty and vocation in the terrifying circumstances in which he finds himself, while his brother Juba struggles to overcome his own passions and inner torment.

Far from being tied to the past, Newman's novel challenges the assumptions of the modern reader in unexpected ways. More perhaps than his major works, Newman's fiction reveals the contours of his imaginative life, the range and power of his prose writing, and the wider literary culture which he so often subordinated to his higher vocation or the demands of controversy. Callista's picture of the Christian venture of faith, so close to Newman's own, and the setting in his beloved church of the Fathers in Roman North Africa, make it one of his most characteristic works. Callista is an important text for understanding Newman's lifelong vocation as a Christian apologist, and the the importance for him of the early Church.

About the Author:
Alan G. Hill is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of London and a Fellow of the British Academy.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780268022600
  • Publisher: University of Notre Dame Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2001
  • Edition description: Subsequent
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 382
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 1.28 (d)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2002

    Perhaps the greatest Christian Romance ever written

    Like very many other readers, I suspect, of the prolific works of John Henry Cardinal Newman, I began nearly five decades ago with one or two ad hoc or specialized works which I was required to tackle in college. In my case the first was THE IDEA OF A UNIVERSITY needed for a B.A. degree in secondary education. The second was Newman¿s GRAMMAR OF ASSENT, studied for its theory of knowledge and the ¿illative sense¿ in pursuit of an M.A. degree in philosophy. The only contextual reading I did to flesh out these specialist chores was John Henry Newman¿s ¿spiritual¿ autobiography, APOLOGIA PRO VITA SUA. **** In recent months, however, while immersed in as many works of Newman across the board as time permits, I have concluded that even education majors who are required to read THE IDEA OF A UNIVERSITY or musicologists who look at Elgar¿s rendering of THE DREAM OF GERONTIUS would do well first to read some other more imaginative and popular works of the great English churchman. **** People who have never read Newman at all might, I believe, do well to devote a fair amount of the rest of their lives hovering over his myriad-minded texts, many admittedly tough going. For any beginner I recommend that she or he begin with Newman¿s 1855 second novel CALLISTA: A TALE OF THE THIRD CENTURY. Alan G. Hill¿s Notre Dame University Press edition and introduction of the year 2000 is currently the best buy in the market. The follow-on book for any novice student of the Oxford Movement, 19th Century English novels, politics and religion should then be Alan G. Hill¿s edition of Newman¿s earlier novel: LOSS AND GAIN: THE STORY OF A CONVERT. For, one way or another, the seed of every major preoccupation of Newman¿s long life (1801-1890) is sketched in these two novels. CALLISTA is the easier read and a rollicking tale it is!**** Both CALLISTA and LOSS AND GAIN are about religious conversion: a divine call from this-worldly preoccupations to a higher reality revealed by God. CALLISTA sketches such a movement of soul in a 17 year old pagan Greek artisan who becomes Saint Callista after a vicious North African martyrdom in 250 A.D. during the persecution of Decius. LOSS AND GAIN is about the six year search by an Oxford student for a religion less worldly and uncertain than the Church of England of the 1840s. **** CALLISTA¿s hard core readers will be people who take their religion seriously. ¿Christian Romance¿ fans in particular may find Newman¿s classic the greatest ever written in that genre. And that although (contrary to the standard Christian Romance script) the two earthly lovers, Callista and Agellius, find God almost in spite of each other and without bodily unity. When the Christian Agellius seeks the pagan but seeking Callista¿s hand, she rejects him because she had expected he would teach her to love his God. Instead she sees him as using her curiosity about the Christian God as a means to attach her to his own selfish, earthly love. **** On the other hand, it is Agellius¿s copy of the Gospel of Luke read by the proud Greek in prison which finally and decisively makes it evident which God it is her heart has always ached for. Saint Luke led her into ¿the presence of One who was simply distinct and removed from anything that she had...ever depicted to her mind as ideal perfection. Here was that to which her intellect tended, though that intellect could not frame it. ... Here was He who spoke to her in her conscience; whose Voice she heard, whose Person she was seeking for¿ (p. 326). **** The novel is lushly detailed and convincing in other respects: its geographic and political setting in Roman Africa, the clash of pagans and Christians, a plague of locusts, mad frenzy and demonic possession of Agellius¿s free thinking brother Juba and a powerful but rejected case made by the philosopher Polemo to the doomed Callista for standing by her inherited religion and the glories that were Greece. **** Like Newman himself, Callista

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