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Centre for Catholic Studies

Catholicism, Literature and the Arts

• What substantive relationships of conceptual and formal influence exist between Catholicism and the arts?
• Is there such a thing as Catholic literature, Catholic music, and Catholic art? If so, in what ways does their catholicity reside in relevant ideas, attitudes, values, and beliefs?
• Are there distinctive styles and traditions of Catholic writing, composition, and painting?
• Are there particular images and themes which Catholic writers, artists, and musicians have explored over the years?
• Are there certain styles of composition, writing, and painting which have come to be associated with the expression of Catholic spirituality?
• And how is Catholicism depicted more broadly in literature and the arts, regardless of the catholicity of their originating creators?

These are some of the challenging questions tackled in the CCS’s research programme in Catholicism, Literature, and the Arts.

CCS staff members with core research and supervisory interests in this area include:

Prof Stephen Regan, Director of the Centre for Poetry and Poetics. His interests are mainly in modern Irish literature, especially the poetry of Seamus Heaney. He is editing the poems of Francis Thompson (author of the celebrated poem The Hound of Heaven, 1893), who was a student at Ushaw College.

Dr Elizabeth Powell, Department of Theology and Religion. Dr Powell’s research interests include the poetry and visual art of David Jones; form and genre in theological writing; the relationship between contemplative practice and creativity; and the nature and perception of beauty.

Prof Bennett Zon, Department of Music. Prof Zon researches the relationship of music, religion and science in the long 19th century. He is developing plans to co-edit an Oxford Handbook of Music and Christian Theology, and is writing a book called No God, No Music?, which will use music to explore the complex relationship between religion and science.

Catholicism, Literature and the Arts Conferences

This research group was pleased to present the CCS’s first international conference on Catholicism, Literature, and the Arts in July 2017. Ninety writers, teachers, students, clergy, and members of the public from Britain, Ireland, Continental Europe, North America, and elsewhere gathered for a series of plenary lectures, short papers, seminar discussions, presentations, performances, and exhibitions on Catholic writers and artists from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. Among the main topics of the conference were Catholic memoir and autobiography, Catholic fiction and poetry, and Catholic painting and sculpture. The keynote lectures are available to listen to here.

Following the success of this conference, a second is planned for 8-10 July 2019.