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The Catholic Studies Reader$
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James T. Fisher and Margaret M. McGuinness

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780823234103

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823234103.001.0001

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Cultural Studies Between Heaven and Earth

Cultural Studies Between Heaven and Earth

Beyond the Puritan Pedagogy of The Scarlet Letter

(p.352) 16 Cultural Studies Between Heaven and Earth
The Catholic Studies Reader



Fordham University Press

This chapter suggests that vestiges of a Catholic imagination may be discerned in classic works of American literature authored by Protestants, and in particular, the most canonical novel of all, Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. It enlists the intercession of Robert A. Orsi, perhaps the most influential figure in the field of American Catholic Studies, who in his own work has treated the interior religiosity and public devotional lives of urban Italian Americans—to provide a kind of Catholic Studies rereading of The Scarlet Letter. The playful quality of this exercise only enhances the sense that American Studies has been “Catholicized” via works of Orsi, the author himself, and others who explicitly treat issues that historically bedeviled Protestants, such as the body in its various guises and (in)capacities and the interplay of suffering, erotic desire, and spirituality.

Keywords:   Catholic imagination, Protestants, Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, Robert A. Orsi, Catholic Studies, suffering, erotic desire, spirituality

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