The Contemporary Literature & Faith Debate: Weblinks

As many of our readers know, there has been a lively debate over the past year concerning the condition of contemporary literature as it engages religious faith.

Because that debate has been conducted over many different venues, we’ve received requests for a list of weblinks that would enable readers to follow the conversation.

That’s what we’ve done below. Feel free to add further thoughts about this conversation in the comments section.

Paul Elie, “Has Fiction Lost Its Faith?”

D.G. Myers, “The Novel of Belief

Gregory Wolfe, “Whispers of Faith in a Postmodern World

Dana Gioia, “The Catholic Writer Today

Gregory Wolfe, “Cultural Anorexia: Doubting the Decline of Faith in Fiction

Gregory Wolfe, “The Catholic Writer, Then and Now” (expanded version of “Cultural Anorexia”)

Paul Elie, Dappled Things interview (include comments on Wolfe’s “Whispers of Faith” article)

[Read more...]

The Problem with Waiting, Part 1

books, candleI don’t have much time. I’m sitting in a coffee shop less than a mile from my house and place of employment feverishly re-reading Dana Gioia’s recent First Things essay “The Catholic Writer Today” and pounding out these words. But in an hour I will need to pack up my laptop and books and make the walk back—my morning course “The Elements of Fiction” starts at 9:50 am.

There are two ways of making the walk, one practical the other prosaic. The practical one is the most direct and takes me along the shoulder of a busy two-lane county road whose berm is piled with old snow. The prosaic takes me into the woods behind the elementary school adjacent to this coffee shop. There I can pick up a well-blazed trail lined with towering pines that drifts away from the road and eventually leads to the cul-de-sac at the end of the subdivision where I live. [Read more...]

The Image Top 25 Contemporary Writers of Faith List

Gregory Wolfe

“I’m sick of Flannery O’Connor.” That was the opening sentence of a recent piece by Randy Boyagoda for First Things magazine. It’s what journalists call “a strong lede,” especially when you consider that First Things readers are likely to revere the memory of Miss O’Connor. (He’s also tired of several other major writers from Hopkins and Dostoevsky to Tolkien and Eliot.)

Boyagoda used that jolt to call attention to what he believes is the dearth of contemporary literature that engages religious faith. As he puts it: “serious literary fiction largely occupies its very own naked public square.” To support his case, he cited a recent New York Times essay by Paul Elie, which makes a similar claim: “if any patch of our culture can be said to be post-Christian, it is literature.”

While I’m tempted to engage the broader arguments these gentlemen make (my reply to Elie was published here), my goal today is more modest.

We believe the best refutation of Elie and Boyagoda is to put out a list of writers working at the pinnacle of artistic achievement—writers who not only grapple with faith but do so as honored members of the mainstream literary community. [Read more...]

Writing in the Age of Unbelief

Years ago I was at a panel discussion featuring several Catholic authors when someone asked the question: “As artists, do you struggle with orthodoxy?” The panelists leaned forward in their seats, looked at one another, and began nervously laughing.

When they regained their composure, the answers were not memorable.

That’s not to say the writers were not thoughtful or up to the task—they were all at least a generation older than me, very well published and well respected—and it was kind of a punk question to ask—but my heart was burning for at least one of the panelists to say no.  [Read more...]