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Catholic Faith in Contemporary Literature

This curricular module explores the expression of Catholic identity and ideas in contemporary literature, highlighting how faith has shaped much of modern American culture. Paul Elie reflects on what the work of Flannery O’Connor and other Catholic writers of the twentieth century means for contemporary Catholic culture in a 2008 essay on “What Flannery Knew: Catholic Writing for a Critical Age” [PDF]. Elie's 2013 discussion with Alice McDermott [video] further explored what it means to be a Catholic writer as part of Georgetown’s Faith and Culture Series [videos], a conversation series with prominent writers, including Carolyn Forché and Tracy K. Smith.

Below, you can explore more resources on Catholic faith in contemporary literature, including an expanded module guide, with additional materials on Flannery O’Connor, Alice McDermott, and Toni Morrison. 

These materials are designed to engage students with the following issues:

  • the state of contemporary Catholic fiction [Elie article, PDF]
  • the comparative ways in which authors represent their faith in fiction (religion as setting or atmosphere vs. explicit subject; nuances; individual experiences of faith/spirituality vs. institutional practices) 
  • approaches to realism in fiction, particularly in regard to religion [Elie article, PDF; “The Faith of the Novelist,” Berkley Forum; Elie essay, Berkley Forum]
  • the influence of Catholicism on authors' writings, including the Catholic resources they may draw upon (e.g. language, morals, principles, perspective, characters, subject matter) [Elie article, PDF; Faith and Culture Series, videos] 

Instructors are encouraged to look through writers featured in the Faith and Culture Series below [videos] and adapt these themes to their needs.

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