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Thursday, 8 January 2015

Jazz Age Catholicism

Martha Hanna has provided a helpful review of Jazz Age Catholicism: Mystic Modernism in Postwar Paris, 1919-1933 by Stephen Schloesser:

'Jazz Age Catholicism offers an original, insightful, and penetrating analysis of an important moment in the cultural history of modern France. It argues that pervasive collective bereavement in the aftermath of World War I prompted a profound cultural shift in elite French society that made Catholicism—dismissed only a few years earlier as retrograde, essentially out of step with the modern world, and archaic—a vibrant and consoling cultural option for many of France's most innovative and creative minds ... prominent French Catholic thinkers and artists embraced modernity not by wholesale rejection of the past but by effecting a synthesis of medieval and modern philosophical principles and artistic forms. At the forefront of this experiment in Catholic renewal and redefinition were Jacques Maritain, Georges Bernanos, Georges Rouault, and Charles Tournemire. Refusing to abandon the philosophic and aesthetic traditions of the Catholic past—whether Scholasticism in philosophy (in the case of Maritain) or Gregorian chant in music (as was Tournemire's striking accomplishment)—each of Schloesser's subjects "formulat[ed] traditional Catholic ideas in modernist guise" ...

Schloesser's ... willingness to think about how sexual modernity (epitomized in the 1920's by homosexuality) often coincided with a deep respect for cultural order—most evident in Jean Cocteau's abiding friendship with, and respect for, Jacques and Raissa Maritain—offers us a new way to understand the modernist initiatives of inter-war Catholicism: "la main tendue,"once understood only as the outstretched hand that hoped to bring Catholics and Communists together, emerges here as another form of cultural rapprochement, equally unexpected by the standards of the pre-war era, by which Catholics and homosexuals could find common ground.

Jazz Age Catholicism contributes in two significant ways to our understanding of twentieth-century French cultural history: first, it prompts a serious reconsideration of the role played by, and the cultural attraction of, Catholicism in the aftermath of World War I; second, it contributes importantly to a scholarly re-assessment of the cultural consequences of the war itself.'


Charles Tournemire - l'Orgue Mystique - L'Ascension.

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