2 June 2016

British and Catholic (1)

Martin Potter has written a most thought-provoking book with this title, and the subtitle National and Religious Identity in the Work of David Jones, Evelyn Waugh and Muriel Spark. It is published by Peter Lang in their "Cultural Identity Studies" series (ISBN 978-3-0343-0860-1). His thesis is that these three writers develop a theory of British Catholic identity which emphasises harmony and transcends the potential conflict; which stresses harmonisation between disparate elements rather than conflict; an approach based upon a philosophy of integration.

I am not sure that this is the complete picture, at least as far as Waugh is concerned. I will give later some considerations which do indeed converge with Potter's approach; but I feel that we should also remember Waugh's profound personal dissociation from the British national enterprise in WW2 ... a dissociation which radically severs Waugh from the comfortable self-congratulatory narrative which pervaded this country towards the end of the War in and the years that followed. It is clear that Waugh does not share the view of his character Box-Bender who commends Cardinal Hinsley on the ground that he is an Englishman before he is a Catholic. And in Scott King Waugh opines that the War has become just a tug of war between two teams of indistinguishable louts. Waugh, like his characters, began the War seeing it as a crusade in defence of what, with Aidan Nichols, we will call Christendom; but he ended up condemning it as the Modern World in Arms. The cynicism with which he writes about The Sword of Stalingrad, surely, says it all, and must be seen as the reaction of a traditional Catholic who had been compelled to be personally complicit in the persecution by Tito's partisans of Royalists, Catholics, and Jews. This is not a man whose Catholic identity sets him comfortably in the national mainstream.

Continues on June 5.

8 comments:

IanW said...

I'm tempted to shell out.

David Jones' art and poetry are not centred on national identity as such, but they do explore the relationship of the present and past, the mundane and the divine. Catholicism, British myth and his experience of the trenches frame these concerns.

Sadie Vacantist said...

The cult of WWII is the most destructive force in the Western world. It together with the culture of critique and the competing post-war hegemonies have not served Christendom well.

Perhaps the atheist Donald Trump can blow up the dollar and bring to a conclusion the "post-war era".

ansgarus said...

In a certain way, WW2 - like already WW1 - can also be seen as a war against christianity. This especially shows the massive destruction of churches and even monasteries not only in almost whole Europe, independent on the combatting parties. From where comes this hatred against Christianity? What people decided the targets, and why did nobody stop them, and why almost no Bishops protested against this destructive work?

Woody said...

Sadie, here is the analysis of a Russian patriot and intellectual, from the ever interesting Katehon site: http://katehon.com/directives/dugins-guideline-trump-and-clinton-battle-will-be-bloody

Sadie Vacantist said...

How about something on Swiss and Catholic? Cardinal Koch's recent statement in Cambridge would have been funny if were not for the thousands of martyrs in the Middle East.

I fear that Eccles and Bosco are the only theologians worth reading at the moment.

John Vasc said...

Nobody knew in 1939 or 1940, when joining up with the knightly intention of combating the modernist forces of tyranny, that the War against two ruthlessly invasive, totalitarian armed forces would suddenly become morally compromised when one of the two grim allies (the Soviet Union) was attacked by the other (Nazi Germany), and the conflict was turned on its head, as the USSR (a conquering enemy of our ally Poland) turned 180 degrees to become our ally in arms until 1945.

At the same time, on the 'Home Front' the British state gleefully expanded and strengthened its own authoritarian tendencies, and the Blockwart mentality invaded British life. (E.g. the wartime privations of Crouchback's father, and the behaviour of his lodging house keepers.) Added to which there was despondently little sign of concerted offensive Allied military strategy or even discipline. So no wonder Crouchback (and Waugh) were demoralised.

Re Yugoslavia: In 'Eastern Approaches' Fitzroy Maclean narrates how he was debriefed by Churchill after returning from the same military mission to Tito made by Waugh. Maclean told the PM - hoping to provoke an outraged response - that Tito's partisans were operating a political civil war of ethnic and religious cleansing, routinely lining up Croatian Catholic priests and having them shot. 'Brigadier Maclean,' said Churchill, 'do you plan to make your home in Yugoslavia after the Wat?' 'No, sir,' replied Maclean. 'Neither do I,' said Churchill, and that ended the interview.

John Vasc said...

Addendum: last line first word:'War' not 'Wat'.

Sadie Vacantist said...

From where does this hatred of Christianity come?

To quote from a Hollywood film "Casablanca" which has served to enforce the cult:

"Round up the usual suspects".