The Spiritual History of English by Andrew Thornton-Norris
What makes a piece of literature or art Christian? Some would say just the content, that is what is said. Some on the other hand would say both the content and the structure, that the way in which those truths are conveyed can communicate more fully the truths. In other words its not just what you say that’s important, but also how you say it. If this is the case then it means that the style of prose or poetry can be Christian (or un Christian) as much as the meaning of the words considered apart from that style.
Any regular reader of this blog will know that I have long maintained that the style of art is every bit as important as the content, and that since the Enlightenment that style has declined because artists have rejected the traditional Catholic forms.
In this slim volume, the English Catholic poet Andrew Thornton-Norris does for poetry and prose what I have been trying to do with art. He relates the actual structure of the writing and the vocabulary used to the worldview of the time. See he shows us, for example, how even if the poet or novelist is sincerely Catholic and trying to express truths that are consistent with the Faith, he is at a great disadvantage if he is seeking to express those truths with the vocabulary and poetic form that reflect a post-Enlightenment culture.
I am not an expert in literary or poetic form and, to be honest, not interested enough in either to seek to become one. So I had to take what what Mr Thornton-Norris’s descriptions of form at face value. However, I agree with his analysis of modernity, which he sees, right down to the present day as ever greater degrees of the protestant heresy. Chapter by chapter he analyses and critiques the worldview of the Englightenment and through to the present day. So the philosophies behind neo-classicism, Romanticism, Modernism and Post Modernism are each presented as differing reactions against Christianity and ultimately the authority of the Catholic Church. He then connects each with the cultural forms.
Because he is dealing with the English language, he first describes the rise of the language as a distinct vernacular and connects this with the Faith. He argues that the very idea of the English as a nation comes from the Church through (Read More)