The Maritain Factor

The Maritain Factor: Taking Religion into Interwar Modernism

Rajesh Heynickx
Jan De Maeyer
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Leuven University Press
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qdz10
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    The Maritain Factor
    Book Description:

    By studying the reception and perception of the French Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain, this book argues that European modernist artists and intellectuals sought a primordial finality in Catholicism. The French poet, writer, and surrealist filmmaker Jean Cocteau converted under the influence of Maritain. For the painters Gino Severini, a pioneer of Futurism, and Otto Van Rees, one of the first Dadaists —both converts— Maritain played the role of spiritual counselor. And when the promoter of abstract art Michel Seuphor embraced Catholic faith in the 1930s, he, too, had extensive contact with Maritain. For all of them, the dictum of the Irish poet Brian Coffey, once a doctoral student under Maritain, applied: modern art needs a Thomist conceptual framework. However, the contributions in The Maritain Factor also show that, besides admiration, Maritain provoked irritation with his theories. Walter Benjamin for example, could only look at Maritain as a charlatan who was out to place modern art under the glass bell jar of Catholicism. The authors demonstrate that Catholic thought was not just one aspect of the manifold varieties of modernist discourses and practices, but in fact offered a basis to organize and structure this multiplicity in the 1920s and 1930s.

    eISBN: 978-94-6166-107-4
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. ON THE ROAD WITH MARITAIN. EUROPEAN MODERNIST ART CIRCLES AND NEO-THOMISM DURING THE INTERWAR
    (pp. 7-26)
    RAJESH HEYNICKX

    Around 1850, Charles Baudelaire began to assert that traditional art was inadequate for the dynamic new complications of modern life. Thirteen years later, he coined his famous definition of modernity: “modernity is the transitory, the elusive, the fortuitous, the half of art of which the other is the eternal and immutable”.² This delineation became something of a commodity fetish for twentieth-century critical discourse and schools. It was canonically misinterpreted as an incentive for not pinning down the impact of a continually increasing modernisation in static formulations. Modernism, the series of progressive cultural movements in art and architecture, music, literature and...

  4. THE RISE OF A MYSTIC MODERNISM. MARITAIN AND THE SACRIFICED GENERATION OF THE TWENTIES
    (pp. 28-39)
    STEPHEN SCHLOESSER

    On January 26, 1920, just fourteen months after the Armistice that ended the Great War, Jacques Maritain went to the Catholic University of Louvain – whose ancient library had been set aflame by the Germans just five years earlier. Maritain was to lecture at the ‘Institut Supérieur de Philosophie’ founded by Cardinal Mercier. The faculty and students who gathered to hear Maritain’s lecture “On Several Conditions of the Thomistic Renaissance” were most likely prepared for a presentation filled with abstract metaphysical distinctions. They must have been taken aback, then, when the philosopher began his remarks with a horribly concrete image from...

  5. CIRCLES AND INSTITUTIONS. THE NEO-THOMISTIC INFRASTRUCTURE
    (pp. 40-54)
    PHILIPPE CHENAUX

    Historical studies on Maritain’s itinerary and work have undergone a spectacular renewal, particularly in France, over the past fifteen years. Until the beginning of the 1990s, historical production on the work of Maritain was almost inexistent, apart from the ‘authorised’ but very old biography of Henry Bars (Maritain en notre temps, Paris, 1959) and an essay by the American historian Bernard Doering (Jacques Maritain and the French Catholic Intellectuals, Notre Dame, 1983). The relative lack of interest in Maritain on the part of historians was principally due to two reasons. The first, historiographical reason was the discredit into which the...

  6. SIMILARITY AND INCOMPATIBILITY. THE AESTHETICS OF MICHEL SEUPHOR AND JACQUES MARITAIN
    (pp. 56-69)
    RAJESH HEYNICKX

    In the last decade, the number of printed volumes on the interwar avant-garde has increased dramatically. The leading ideas were studied in encyclopaedic monographs. Periodicals were reprinted. The stream of books filled with Dada manifestoes and surrealistic photomontages was endless. It is this still growing avalanche of literature that enables us to narrow the gap between the present and one of the most important cultural developments of the twentieth century that was in its prime more than seventy years ago. However, other than in a plethora of written sources, the avant-garde could also be present in another form. Probably only...

  7. TOWARDS A MODERN RELIGIOUS ART. THE CASE OF ALBERT SERVAES
    (pp. 70-83)
    JAN DE MAEYER

    Controversies can highlight and even magnify the latent tensions in the positions of protagonists and antagonists. The controversy surrounding Servaes’s Stations of the Cross in the period 1919-1921 threw the tension about the possibility or impossibility of a modernist religious art into the public domain. The conflict made clear that Jacques Maritain was the point of reference for a whole generation of searching artists, and that his book,Art et Scolastique, seemed to offer a way out of difficult dilemmas. Maritain was the icon of a generation, something he was very conscious of himself. It is worth taking a closer...

  8. MARITAIN IN THE NETHERLANDS. PIETER VAN DER MEER DE WALCHEREN AND THE CULT OF YOUTH
    (pp. 84-99)
    MATHIJS SANDERS

    During the last twenty years, the concept of modernism has frequently been used by Dutch literary historians to describe certain characteristics of literature from the first half of the twentieth century. Although Dutch literary historians hold different views on its exact delimitation, they seem to have reached a predominant consensus regarding the nature and key features of modernism. In their influential studyModernist Conjectures. A Mainstream in European Literature 1910-1940, published in 1987, Douwe Fokkema and Elrud Ibsch defined modernism as the representation of a world view inclined towards intellectual investigations, preferring hypothetical conjectures to dogmatic opinions and final conclusions....

  9. CODIFYING LITERATURE? MARITAIN AND THE CATHOLIC WRITERS OF FRANCOPHONE BELGIUM
    (pp. 100-111)
    CÉCILE VANDERPELEN-DIAGRE

    During the interwar period, Belgian Francophone writers wishing to assert their Catholicism tried to unite. This attempt came to the fore with the creation of journals, publishing firms, and by the foundation in 1934 of the Association of Catholic Writers of Belgium, the ‘Scriptores Catholici’. Through this media and organisations, Catholics writers tried to occupy a position in the Belgian literary landscape and to impose upon it a discourse on literature marked by the conviction that both aesthetics and ethics had to be taken into account. This motivation for developing an ethical aesthetics was intimately linked with a feeling of...

  10. GINO SEVERINI, A CLASSICIST FUTURIST
    (pp. 112-126)
    ZOË MARIE JONES

    In 1937 Corrado Pavolini interviewed Jacques Maritain for the Italian art journalIl Frontispizio. The interview took place at the Roman residence of the artist Gino Severini, a close friend and spiritual protégé of Maritain. Although the subsequent article was little more than a general profile of Maritain with no reference to his philosophical achievements, Pavolini’s use of descriptive artistic analogies makes it noteworthy. Pavolini writes that Maritain “didn’t seem to be a philosopher, but reminded one more of a painter: the last surviving of the impressionists: with an invisible folding easel, a box of colours slung across his shoulder,...

  11. BRIAN COFFEY, JACQUES MARITAIN AND THE RECOVERY OF THE ‘THING’
    (pp. 138-151)
    JAMES MATTHEW WILSON

    As the mantras of canonical poets like T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound remind us, modernist poetry in English took a decided turn toward the objective and impersonal in its efforts to transcend the legacy of romantic poetic doctrines of sincerity and subjectivity. Where the romantic poets had prized poetry as the expression of an exceptionally sensitive soul, the modernists declared the work itself had its own ontological integrity. Poetry did notexpressanything. Rather, the poemwas: itwasan object that stood as its own end and must be contemplated as such, and it was in the more complicated...

  12. DEBATING LITERARY AUTONOMY. JACQUES MARITAIN VERSUS ANDRÉ GIDE
    (pp. 152-163)
    MICHAEL EINFALT

    One of the most important gifts of Jacques Maritain was his ability to form alliances. Through the merging of his efforts and interests he was capable of establishing an effective barrier against other philosophical or aesthetic positions, and in particular against his antagonists. This strategy was certainly at work when he became, immediately after the First World War, a member of the ‘Action Française’. During the war, this monarchist counter-revolutionary movement of which Charles Maurras was the principal ideologist, had initiated theunion sacrée(sacred union), a political attempt to bring together conservative political and religious factions to solidify support...

  13. MYSTIC MODERNISM AND POLITICS. JACQUES MARITAIN, JOSEPH ROTH AND ANTON VAN DUINKERKEN
    (pp. 164-179)
    EWOUD KIEFT

    One of the main reasons why modernism still needs ‘refiguring’ today, is the enormous influence that political polarisation has played in the reconstruction of the first half of the twentieth century. The tendency to, mostly implicitly, understand this period according to post-Second World War values of ‘political correctness’ has been decisive. Due to the grand narrative of modernity as a linear progressive tendency of Western civilisation, political motives in the discourses on modernism and the avant-garde have long not been recognised as such. They have also been hard to identify because the debate on modernism mainly concerned aesthetic, formal criteria....

  14. “THE JUST IMPARTIALITY OF A CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHER”. JACQUES MARITAIN AND T.S. ELIOT
    (pp. 180-191)
    JASON HARDING

    In January 1926, T.S. Eliot launchedThe New Criterionwith the editorial manifesto “The Idea of a Literary Review”. A literary review, he contended, should illustrate “the time and the tendencies of the time”. According to Eliot,The New Criterionwould not be indiscriminately heterogeneous, a mere miscellany, but rather seek to exhibit the modern tendency which he called (“for want of a better name”) classicism. Eliot’s usage of this term had less to do with the Greek and Latin classics than with polemical statements made by contemporary intellectuals. Eliot supplied a list of texts that exemplified his ‘classical’ tendency...

  15. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 192-205)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 206-209)
  17. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 210-211)
  18. COLOPHON
    (pp. 212-212)