God's Mirror: Renewal and Engagement in French Catholic Intellectual Culture in the Mid-Twentieth Century

God's Mirror: Renewal and Engagement in French Catholic Intellectual Culture in the Mid-Twentieth Century

Katherine Davies
Toby Garfitt
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    God's Mirror: Renewal and Engagement in French Catholic Intellectual Culture in the Mid-Twentieth Century
    Book Description:

    Gathering in one place a cohesive selection of articles that deepen our sense of the vitality and controversy within the Catholic renewal of the mid-twentieth century, God's Mirror offers historical analysis of French Catholic intellectuals. This volume highlights the work of writers, thinkers and creative artists who have not always drawn the attention given to such luminaries as Maritain, Mounier, and Marcel. Organized around the typologies of renewal and engagement, editors Katherine Davies and Toby Garfitt provide a revisionist and interdisciplinary reading of the narrative of twentieth-century French Catholicism. Renewal and engagement are both manifestations of how the Catholic intellectual reflects and takes position on the relationship between the Church, personal faith and the world, and on the increasingly problematic relationship between intellectuals and the Magisterium. A majority of the writings are based on extensive research into published texts, with some occasional archival references, and they give critical insights into the tensions that characterized the theological and political concerns of their subjects.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-6240-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-27)
    Katherine Davies and Toby Garfitt

    The “existential” register unites what might only be seen as irreconcilable: the theological aesthetics of Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar and the “philosophy of the concrete” espoused by the Jewish-born agnostic philosopher Jean Wahl. Writing nearly thirty years apart in this instance, roughly at the beginning and the end of the period under study here, Wahl and Balthasar nevertheless emerge as particularly useful interpretive “signs” of Catholic intellectual culturein transitionin mid-twentieth-century France in their respective encounters with the question of human existence.

    Balthasar’s theological aesthetics represented a blow struck at the intellectualization and conceptualization of faith—neo-scholasticism...

  5. 1 “Catholicisme ondoyant”: Catholic Intellectual Engagement and the Crisis of Civilization in the 1930s
    (pp. 28-49)
    Michael Kelly

    Catholics have often struggled to achieve recognition in France as legitimate intellectuals with a distinctive voice and valuable ideas to contribute. To a large extent, this is a result of the difficult interface between religion and politics. However, key Catholic figures in the interwar period worked with great tenacity to address the problems and dilemmas that rendered the interface difficult, especially the tensions between the spiritual and temporal realms and between a long-term conception of civilization and short-term political objectives. In the process they developed a complex but workable concept of engagement, based on a notion of the human person,...

  6. 2 Paul Valéry and French Catholicism: Recognizing the Context of Renewal
    (pp. 50-68)
    Paul Gifford

    It must be something of a paradox to identify the sociopolitical and intellectual context of the renewal of French Catholicism in the third and fourth decades of the twentieth century by appealing to an agnostic intellectual, a poet, thinker, and public writer who, in the preceding period, observes the church, its beliefs, practices, and behavior—closely, to be sure—but with unfailing skepticism and consistently from the outside, looking in. Yet Paul Valéry, precisely because he doesnotbelong to the house hold of Catholic obedience, sharing neither its philosophic mind nor its Christian faith, while still operating in the...

  7. 3 A Strange Christian: Simone Weil
    (pp. 69-87)
    Florence de Lussy

    Simone Weil provides an excellent case study of the problems of commitment (engagement) in relation to French Catholic thought in the mid–twentieth century. Weil was a thoroughgoing intellectual for whom life and thought were inextricably linked. She was and is an uncomfortable figure. She lived her life as a kind of martyrdom, and she remains difficult to come to terms with even today.

    Her strangeness stemmed largely from a combination of her family and cultural background, as well as her own psychological and personal qualities, but her education also played a determining role. She was a born militant, and...

  8. 4 Jean Grenier and the “Spirit of Orthodoxy”
    (pp. 88-103)
    Toby Garfitt

    In his studies of the major French literary periodical, theNouvelle revue française(NRF), in the years leading up to the Second World War, Martyn Cornick has traced how “Jean Paulhan edited theNRFso as to prolong and develop its literary reputation, at the same time as taking calculated risks to ‘shock the bourgeois’ among its readership.”¹ He draws attention to the remarkable way Paulhan, as general editor, “balanced the review, aesthetically as well as politically, around a centre of gravity that is identifiably radical-republican and liberal,” showing how he aimed to place theNRF“at the centre of...

  9. 5 Charles Du Bos’s Catholicism and His Politics of Sincerity in Interwar France
    (pp. 104-128)
    Katherine Davies

    Taking his cue from François Mauriac, literary critic Albert Thibaudet contemplated the currency of sincerity in a 1929 article for theNouvelle revue française. While stressing the polysemic nature of sincerity—its meaning slips and slides depending on the vocation and philosophical disposition of the subject—Thibaudet’s commentary was indicative of the imaginative space it occupied in French intellectual life.² As a hinge for literary debate, the notion of “sincerity toward oneself” crystallized in no small part around the figure of André Gide. His sincerity lay in the cultivation and celebration of the conflicting dimensions of the self, the total...

  10. 6 From Mystique to Théologique: Messiaen’s “ordre nouveau,” 1935–39
    (pp. 129-161)
    Stephen Schloesser

    Consult any concert program, review, or advertising for the music of Olivier Messiaen: very likely some variation of the word “mystic” will appear as an identifier or modifier. Partly, this is simply modernity’s lack of an appropriate category. One of the most recent examples is a book review that appeared in 2010 in theJournal of the British Institute of Organ Studies: “The title [Messiaen the Theologian] is perhaps (deliberately?) provocative: as the contributors demonstrate, Messiaen was profoundly influenced by certain theological traditions. Yet it is slightly implausible to ascribe to a composer the didactic, essentially word-based role of ‘theologian’;...

  11. 7 Rethinking the Modernity of Bernanos: A Girardian Perspective
    (pp. 162-185)
    Brian Sudlow

    Since the 1990s there has been a broad critical consensus that the polemical writings of Georges Bernanos are paradoxically modern in substance and style. In his essay onLes grands cimetières sous la lune(A Diary of My Times, 1938), Bernanos’s tract about the Spanish Civil War, Michel Estève underlines how Bernanos’s dissent from the textbook Catholic response to the war was evidence of his affirming the primacy of conscience over ideology.¹ Pierrette Renard has mounted the most complex and detailed argument in the secondary literature to demonstrate how Bernanos, in his polemical writings, was a modern in spite of...

  12. 8 “Into the Catacombs of the Past”: Women and War time Trauma in the French Catholic Ressourcement Project (1939–45)
    (pp. 186-209)
    Brenna Moore

    In her memoirs,Traversée en solitaire(Solo Crossing), French Catholic medievalist Marie-Madeleine Davy (1903–99; her name is also spelled Marie-Magdeleine) recalls a remarkable afternoon in Paris in December 1943. Trained under Étienne Gilson, Davy had been hired as a lecturer in religion at the École des hautes études, and she had prepared to teach on the likeness (semblance) between the soul and God among the Cistercian monks of the twelfth century. About ten minutes into her presentation, three German officers walked into the auditorium, stood by the door, and stared at her. “I felt pale. My jaw tightened. All...

  13. 9 La Relève and Its Afterlife: A Current of Catholic Renewal in Twentieth-Century Quebec
    (pp. 210-229)
    Joseph Dunlop

    Though a preeminent example of French intellectual culture, the influence of therenouveau catholique—the early twentieth-century revival of French Catholic literature and thought—stretched out beyond metropolitan France and even francophone Europe to touch an island of European intellectual life in North America: Quebec. Perceiving themselves as part of a larger European intellectual milieu, young French Canadians seized upon the new ideas emerging from Catholic France to refashion their understanding of faith and its relationship to politics, culture, and society. One of the most important vehicles for this Catholic revival in Quebec was the Montreal-based periodicalLa Relève, founded...

  14. 10 Louis Massignon: A Catholic Encounter with Islam and the Middle East
    (pp. 230-252)
    Anthony O’Mahony

    Louis Massignon (1883–1962) was a singular figure in the French Catholic intellectual world between the First and Second World Wars up until Vatican II.¹ His place in the French Catholic milieu defies easy categorization: soldier-diplomat, leading scholar of Islam and the Muslim World, politically engaged, a religious activist, and latterly ordained a Catholic priest in the Melkite Catholic Church in 1950.² Massignon was considered by some of his contemporaries to be a unique mediating voice in France’s relations with the Arab world.³

    Two poles defined his life and work. The first was the world of French Catholicism, with its...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 253-336)
  16. List of Contributors
    (pp. 337-340)
  17. Index
    (pp. 341-350)