Has The Novel Lost Its Faith? Ctd

The debate has been percolating again recently. Gregory Wolfe goes one more round, defending his thesis that faith hasn’t disappeared from the literary landscape, but writers are handling religious themes with more nuance and reserve than before.  He does, however, admit one bit of nostalgia, looking back with envy at the Christian public intellectuals who helped “to mediate what is going on in the arts to a broader audience”:

If I miss anything from that mid-twentieth-century period, it is the presence of thinkers like Jacques Maritain, Etienne Gilson, Allen Tate, T.S. Eliot, and Thomas Merton, who were equally at home in the New York Times and Commonweal. Their rich, humanistic sensibilities are sorely missed. What happened in the intervening decades is a steady shrinking of cultural and aesthetic concerns to ideological politics, including church politics. What happened was the progressive dumbing down and crudeness of what has been called the culture wars. In the relentless pursuit of partisan politics, the endless fight against heresy or entrenched orthodoxy, Left or Right, the religious community’s arteries have hardened. As [Dana] Gioia observed, “What absorbs the Catholic intellectual media is politics, conducted mostly in secular terms—a dreary battle of right versus left for the soul of the American Church.” The actual blood of everyday human experience—the stuff that art and literature capture, in all their ambiguity and resistance to ideological programs—is not circulating very well to the body’s limbs.