Cultural Studies Between Heaven and Earth


in The Catholic Studies Reader

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780823234103
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823240906 | DOI:

Series: Catholic Practice in North America

Cultural Studies Between Heaven and Earth

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This chapter suggests that vestiges of a Catholic imagination may be discerned in classic works of American literature authored by Protestants, and in particular, the most canonical novel of all, Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. It enlists the intercession of Robert A. Orsi, perhaps the most influential figure in the field of American Catholic Studies, who in his own work has treated the interior religiosity and public devotional lives of urban Italian Americans—to provide a kind of Catholic Studies rereading of The Scarlet Letter. The playful quality of this exercise only enhances the sense that American Studies has been “Catholicized” via works of Orsi, the author himself, and others who explicitly treat issues that historically bedeviled Protestants, such as the body in its various guises and (in)capacities and the interplay of suffering, erotic desire, and spirituality.

Keywords: Catholic imagination; Protestants; Nathaniel Hawthorne; The Scarlet Letter; Robert A. Orsi; Catholic Studies; suffering; erotic desire; spirituality

Chapter.  7448 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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