Chapter

Introduction

Thomas F. Haddox

in Fears and Fascinations

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print November 2005 | ISBN: 9780823225217
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823236947 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5422/fso/9780823225217.003.0001
Introduction

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A complete picture of Catholicism's function as a set of tropes within American literature and culture must include the primary regional antagonism of the nineteenth century between North and South. This book argues that beginning in the 1840s, Catholicism repeatedly figures, in the work of both Catholic and non-Catholic southern writers, as a linchpin that connects anxieties about and emotional investments in southern identity. Indeed, much of the force of southern representations of Catholicism derives from the tension between the changelessness and universalism often invoked by the Catholic Church — evident in the very word “catholic” — and the culturally specific, historically variable objects of desire and terrors that southerners found in or projected onto the church. In short, Catholicism becomes evocative and powerful precisely because it eludes fixed definition and encompasses opposites.

Keywords: Catholicism; American literature; culture; regional antagonism; universalism; Catholic Church; southern identity

Chapter.  5242 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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