Medieval Yearnings: A Catholicism for Whites in Nineteenth-Century Southern Literature

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:
Medieval Yearnings: A Catholicism for             Whites in Nineteenth-Century Southern Literature

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The planter as kindly lord of the manor is a familiar trope in nineteenth-century southern literature — pastoral and paternalist are the standard adjectives used to describe this characterization — and its relation to a proslavery ideology that would equate the plantation system with feudalism has been widely recognized. Southern partisans, both in literature and politics, tended to view both slavery and the tightly controlled republican government that protected it as extensions of the patriarchal family. What has been less recognized is that for many southern apologists, this “medievalist” ideology ultimately required a religious grounding. The irruption of “history” into medieval Christendom under the rubrics of Enlightenment, Reformation, secularization and emerging capitalism could only be combated by the recovery or preservation of medieval principles — one of which was the totalizing and hierarchical ordering epitomized in the Great Chain of Being and underwritten by Roman Catholicism.

Keywords: proslavery ideology; feudalism; southern literature; Enlightenment; politics; slavery; Reformation; secularization; Roman Catholicism; Great Chain of Being

Chapter.  15200 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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