Saturday, May 23, 2009

More on Catholic Fiction -- well, theistic fiction . . .

Anyway. I was reading Peter Kreeft when I woke up this morning, because I checked this book out of the church library, and I have to read it and give it back. At least, I have to give it back, and it seems stupid not to read it while I'm at it.

So as I was reading the Catholic-fiction criteria here just now, this observation of Kreeft's came to mind (though I had to think a while before I remembered where it came from, despite having read it only an hour ago):

Atheism cheapens the world, cheapens life. To see this, just compare atheist fiction with theistic fiction. Belief in God does not squash man; it raises man to a divine image. Heroism grows only in the sunlight of a divine sun. Squash the ceilings down low, and we stoop. In classical Greek drama, in Shakespeare, man is great because he breathes the air of the absolute. In Faulkner, Gide, Sartre, Camus, Beckett, and nine out of ten lesser twentieth-century writers, man is "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing" because he is a cosmic orphan. His universe is man-sized, not God-sized . . . Life in that world is a meaningless flicker of a candle for a few between the cold and barren darkness of two eternal nights. (from Making Sense Out of Suffering

I wonder about Faulkner -- I'm not sure all his work fits this framework which Kreeft proposes. That is, I'm not sure it's all as atheistic in its outlook as The Sound and the Fury. Then again, I'm not sure it's not. But generally I think Kreeft is right, and one dividing line is that between the novel of the hero and the novel of the anti-heroic ant-on-the-surface-of-the-naked -globe-which-is-all-there-is kind of protagonist.

A novel which keeps swimming to the surface of my mind is Willa Cather's O Pioneers. But I think I need more coffee, and more time, before I talk about it. We're supposedly going to a historical re-enactment day at Kings Mountain down the road, but nobody seems to be making gestures in that direction right now . . .

1 comment:

Mrs. Buckles said...

That is a great quote, Mrs. T. It sometimes seems that most modern, serious fiction can't accomodate the ideas of nobility and heroism, and those virtues are instead relegated to fantasy; maybe that is what makes that genre so appealing to youth. On the other hand there is a sort of Christian discomfort with the hero because of the importance of humility. I just read Murder in the Cathedral with my Brit Lit class - hadn't read it before - but what stood out is what a passive hero Eliot's Beckett is. His strongest tempter is the one who offers martyrdom. And maybe what Faulkner offers are these fallen heroes, these last holdouts of Southern chivalry, in need of redemption: more an agnostic framework. Another one to revisit, with Cather. An ambitious list could be to reread a couple classics, then jump up to 20th c. Brits, over to 20th c. Americans, and then back to fill in the gaps.