This book is a comparative study of the French and English Catholic literary revivals of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These parallel but mostly independent movements include writers such as Charles Péguy, Paul Claudel, J. K. Huysmans, Gerard Manley Hopkins, G. K. Chesterton and Lionel Johnson. Rejecting critical approaches that tend to treat Catholic writings as exotic marginalia, this book makes extensive use of secularisation theory to confront these Catholic writings with the preoccupations of secularism and modernity. It compares individual and societal secularisation in France and England and examines how French and English Catholic writers understood and contested secular mores, ideologies and praxis, in the individual, societal and religious domains. The book also addresses the extent to which some Catholic writers succumbed to the seduction of secular instincts, even paradoxically in themes which are considered to be emblematic of the Catholic literature.
ostensibly formalist uses of China draw texts back into history, specifically the history of the West’s relationship to China. 13 Here I want to expand on the ways in which the cultural particularity of examples, even in their negated or formalist uses, have consequences for the periodization and the mapping of Segalen’s work, but also ‘French modernism’ more generally.
There are three obvious ways in which Segalen’s untimeliness might be historicized. The first is to think of Segalen as a kind of late symbolist, a contemporary of PaulClaudel and Paul Valéry, rather
( NRF ) during its initial heyday, a person who, along with André Gide, could be called, with reason, le contemporain capital . That he knew and sponsored the important writers of his day can be surmised by a quick look at the sixty-ninth volume of the review (1 June 1919), which contained excerpts from the following: André Gide, PaulClaudel, Marcel Proust, Paul Valéry, Léon-Paul Fargue, Georges Duhamel, Henri Ghéon, Albert Thibaudet and André Lhote. In his valuable but gossipy overview of Rivière’s work and contributions to the NRF , Jean Lacouture does not
encourage more imaginative and poetic ways of being in the world. The subject is to make herself into a work of art. So while revolutionary poetry and written poetry are separate entities in Genet’s thought, they both ought to work, in their different ways, for the same goal: equality and freedom – the end of reification. Genet made a similar point in a letter he wrote to the political militant Patrick Prado in 1970. In that text, he argues that artists are at their most radical when they refuse to compromise the autonomy of their vision. For him, the Catholic poet Paul
where no such laws had been established. 19
PaulClaudel’s contempt for secularised science was similar to Brunetière’s, though Claudel was always ready to dispense with philosophical or rhetorical niceties: ‘La “science” moderne, misérable et dégoûtante […] grignote des détritus et des hypothèses mortes et sèches.’ 20 Like many Catholic authors, Claudel’s attitude mirrors his contempt for secularised thought in general. Reflecting on the floods in Paris in 1911, Claudel remarked: ‘L’eau mine tout Paris […] comme la pensée impie mine la
culture, deism had all but become the operative conceptualisation of God’s relationship to the world.
All the French Catholic authors reflect upon this theme in one way or another. God is not remote and uninterested in people, but engaged and attentive to their needs. In PaulClaudel’s Cinq Grandes Odes , for example, the sense of the presence of God and of his creative force is immense. With language bordering on the scriptural, Claudel declares: ‘Mon Dieu qui connaissez chaque homme avant qu’il ne naisse par son nom / Souvenez-vous de moi
This book is based on a paradox and a coincidence. The paradox is that at the end of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a period of profound secularisation in France, there emerged a generation of Catholic writers and intellectuals who were convinced that the rumours about God’s death had been greatly exaggerated. The coincidence is that, in the same period, English literature too saw a significant revival in Catholic writing. In France, the late novels of Joris Karl Huysmans, the plays of PaulClaudel and the religious
Middle Ages is not universal among French Catholic writers. There is very little trace of such medievalism in Paul Bourget, for example. PaulClaudel praised the Middle Ages but held in esteem the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Counter-Reformation for its resistance to Protestantism. 3 On another tack, Emile Baumann was enamoured with the early Church. This latter tendency was often associated with theological modernists, as we see in Bourget’s Le Démon de midi where Abbé Fauchon celebrates a kind of proto-liturgy based on early Christian sources. In Baumann
society. 3 The denunciation of this society required passion, according to Léon Bloy, and only in La Salette did he find a message worthy of the times: ‘Ce n’est plus l’heure de prouver que Dieu existe. L’heure sonne de donner sa vie pour Jésus Christ.’ 4 PaulClaudel was somewhat more cautious, expressing his reservations about ‘les illuminés’ to Louis Massignon, and saying that the Church was rightly prudent about giving approval to such prophetic texts. 5 The caution was warranted. The visions of Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes were followed by a number of copycat