Present or Absent?

A discussion on the Catholic contribution to imaginative literature in the United States

With Paul ELIE, Author and Senior Fellow with Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, and Greg WOLFE, Publisher and Editor of Image

Presented by Crossroads Cultural Center

In one of his essays, Walker Percy remarked that "whatever else the benefits of the Catholic faith, it is of particularly felicitous use to the novelist. Indeed, if one had to design a religion for novelists, I can think of no better." In fact, Percy himself was part of a generation in which Catholic novelists made extraordinary contributions to American literature. In a recent article in First Things, Dana Gioia drew a comparison between the vibrant role Catholics played in US literature in the mid-twentieth century and the role they play today, and concluded that, by and large, "there is currently no vital or influential Catholic tradition evident in mainstream American culture." His statement started a lively debate about the state of contemporary Catholic culture in the US. Through this event, we have the pleasure of bringing together two protagonists of this debate who can help us assess the relationship between faith and culture, and in particular between faith and the arts, in 21st century America. Is it true that very few contemporary artists regard Catholicism as their core identity? Is Catholic culture in the US in danger of becoming increasingly segregated and unable to make its voice heard by a broader audience? Are the Catholic intellectual media pathologically absorbed by politics, conducted mostly in secular terms? Or, on the contrary, is this the time when the witness of Catholic writers and artists is shining the most, precisely because it no longer flows through the official channels of a recognizable "Catholic" culture, but instead is disseminated in many non-traditional contexts and genres? Is the absence of nationally prominent Catholic artists a real fact or just an optical effect, due to an incorrect perspective? These and other questions will be the subject of our discussion.

The event is open to the public and free of charge.

About this Event

Date: Saturday, May 3, 2014
Time: 8pm
Location: Crossroads Auditorium
125 Maiden Lane, 15th Floor, NY, NY
(ID required to enter the building)

About the Speakers

Paul Elie
Author and Senior Fellow with Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs

Greg Wolfe
Publisher and Editor of Image


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    Present or Absent? - Events - Crossroads Cultural Center

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