Loyola University Chicago

John Felice Rome Center

Engl 289/Cath 200/ROST 299/THeo 180 Catholic Writers and rome

Summer 2009

Course Description:

This course will focus on four Catholic American writers of the 20th century:  Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Flannery O’Connor, and Walker Percy.  Using Paul Elie’s book, The Life You Save May Be Your Own, the course traces how these prominent artists and intellectuals, steeped in the modernist/postmodernist concerns of their era, find in Roman Catholicism a philosophical, aesthetic, and ultimately imaginative hermeneutic for their art and their own pilgrimage of faith.  To this end, we will read how Elie weaves a story about 20th century conversions that are both religious and literary.  We will correlate these artists and their work to four fundamental “Catholic” tendencies that help situate how the Catholic expression of aesthetics becomes central to their art.  Finally we will both imbibe and discuss how the art of Rome and the Church of Rome historically illustrates these Catholic tendencies.  Rome will be thus not only the background for the course, but the lived experience of a religious and artistic culture that informed these writers.

Instructor: Mark Bosco, SJ


  • Elie, Paul.   The Life You Save May Be Your Own.  New York:  Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003.
  • Selected essays on Black Board
  • In addition to Elie’s text, each student will read one more major work from one of these authors chosen before arrival in Rome.
    • Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain (spiritual autobiography), Raids on the Unspeakable (theological and political essays), The Sign of Jonas (theological reflection)
    • Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness (spiritual autobiography)
    • Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood (novel), The Violent Bear it Away (novel), Mystery and Manners (short essays on literature and Catholicism)
    • Walker Percy, The Moviegoer (novel); The Last Gentleman (novel); Lost in the Cosmos (essays); The Message in the Bottle (essays)

Course Assignments:

  • Weekly reflection paper (2 pages, typed and double spaced)
  • Journal log of the places you have visited/experiences of Rome
  • Final paper (4-6 pages, typed and double-spaced):  part summary review of the book you chose to read, part reflection on how it correlates to aspects of the course and aspect of your own life.

Course Themes for Syllabus:

  • Week One:  (Literary) Catholicism:  Foundational and Historical
  • Week Two:  (Literary) Catholicism: Narrative and Story-telling
  • Week Three:  (Literary) Catholicism:  Incarnational/Sacramental aesthetics
  • Week Four:  (Literary) Catholicism:  From Gothic to Baroque
  • Week Five:  (Literary) Catholicism 2000:  Modernity to Postmodernity