The Catholic Imagination in Modern American Poetry, by James Matthew Wilson
James Matthew Wilson's The Catholic Imagination in Modern American Poetry tells the story of Catholicism's emergence from an exotic subculture to a cultural force in American literature. As the "atheist Catholic" of Harvard George Santayana introduced a generation of students to the living power of Dante and Christian Platonism, he prepared modernist poetry in America to admit and be enriched by the resources of Catholic thought in ever ancient and ever new ways. By mid-century, the most influential poets in America would be drawing on the Catholic vision of the universe as a coherent, sacramental whole in order to justify the intricacies of their art form and to explain literature's claim to a central place in our culture. Accounting for these epoch-making figures, Wilson proceeds to show the continuing, more varied practices of contemporary Catholic poets, who have worked to keep a tradition of incarnational grit and visionary comprehension alive in an age often suspicious of art's claims to truth and indifferent to its ornate beauties.