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The Catholic Imagination Paperback – Oct 1 2001

3.4 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 213 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (Oct. 1 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520232046
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520232044
  • Product Dimensions: 20.9 x 14.1 x 1.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 299 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #412,284 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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The Catholic Imagination is Andrew Greeley's attempt to summarize what is unique about Catholic culture. "Catholics live in an enchanted world, a world of statues and holy water, stained glass and votive candles, saints and religious medals, rosary beads and holy pictures," Greeley writes. "But these Catholic paraphernalia are mere hints of a deeper and more pervasive religious sensibility which inclines Catholics to see the Holy lurking in creation." In seven chapters, The Catholic Imagination considers some of the central themes of Catholic culture--sacrament, salvation, community, festival, hierarchy, erotic desire, and the mother love of God--particularly as they have been treated by Catholic artists. The book's theological and aesthetic observations gain force from its sociological insights. (Greeley teaches Sociology at the University of Chicago and the University of Arizona.). Read the chapter on "Sacred Desire" first. There's good stuff here on Bernini (later in the book he moves on to Scorsese, Mozart, and others); but even more fascinating is Greeley's empirical evidence that "Catholics have sex more often, they are more playful in their sexual encounters, and they enjoy sex more [than other Americans]." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Readers familiar with Greeley's previous nonfiction works will find this extended essay a variation on a familiar theme. Greeley--a Catholic priest, sociologist and novelist who teaches at the University of Chicago and the University of Arizona--posits that Catholicism creates an imaginative worldview that finds grace "lurking everywhere," from the city streets to the landscape to the bedroom. It is a worldview that pervades Greeley's many novels. Here, Greeley draws on art, literature, music and films produced by Catholics, ranging from the Baroque sculptures of Bernini to the contemporary fiction of James T. Farrell. He also draws on his own research to illustrate what he calls an "enchanted imagination," a sensibility Greeley attributes to Catholicism's emphasis on God's immanence, as opposed to Protestantism's focus on God's transcendence. This book's principles reiterate Greeley's previous books and articles on Catholic myth and imagination, including several that seem less hurriedly composed. Protestants may be put off by some of his comparisons (for example, "Catholics are more interested in the fine arts than Protestants" and "Catholics tend to picture society as supportive and not oppressive, while Protestants tend to picture society as oppressive and not supportive"). Imperfections aside, Greeley devotees may enjoy following him over this terrain again, possibly collecting references to artistic works for follow-up.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Format: Paperback
Before reviewing this book, I must take exception to some scathing denouncements of both Greeley and his works. Apparently, these people & I must not have read the same Greeley books (and since I have read nearly every Greeley book published to date, that would take some doing). If Greeley is a blasphemer, then so am I. If he is going to hell, then I want to go there with him. If Greeley hates God, then I must too, because I see God the same way as Greeley. For the record, I am a minister, a writer, an avid reader, a woman, and an unabashed Greeley fan. I find Fr. Greeley's vision of God is so empowering, especially for women, that I shudder to think of a God who is not like the Being that he describes, defends, and quite obviously, deeply loves. All I can suggest, to those who decry Greeley & his work, is to re-read all of his books-this time without the blinders. If this happens, then I think his detractors will find that Greeley's overall themes are much more beautiful, resonant, and inspiring than they originally thought.
Now, on to the book I'm supposed to be reviewing... "The Catholic Imagination" is yet another example of Greeley at his best. When I finished it, I still wanted more. In fact, I hope Fr. Greeley does see fit to write a sequel to this evocative, delicious, and wonderfully moving book. It felt like he wrote this one more in the same vein as his fiction, and I think it is preferable to the rigid, often dry prose many others use when writing about 'the big things,' (God, Humanity, and the Universe).
Like many others, I especially loved Chapter Two (Sacred Desire). But the chapter that touched me the most was Chapter Three (The Mother Love of God).
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Format: Hardcover
I've long heard about U. of Chicago sociologist Andrew Greeley but never had the opportunity to read any of his works. The Catholic Imagination was a very approchable work for the general reader that looks at the Catholic Church's roots in both the divine and the flesh (as opposed to the condemnation of the flesh and worldly things by Reformation Protestants).
Greeley bends over backwards not to trumpet the superiority of Catholicism over other denominations or faiths. He attempts to take the reader on a tour of Catholic iconography and community and explain to Catholics and non-Catholics alike why Catholics are more attached to art, music, architecture, community (over individuality), sexuality and salvation in an imperfect world than other Christian congregations.
He also argues quite eloquently that much of the above aspects of Catholicism are rooted in folk history and the Church's roots in a illiterate, pre-Enlightenment Europe where local traditions held greater sway than detached theological mandates from a distant Rome. Greeley even touches on this conflict in today's Church, believing that improved communication technologies have resulted in friction between Rome and "ordinary" Catholics as the Holy See has attempted to tighten its control over local clergy and laity.
Again, Greeley aims for the general reader as his audience, not the learned theologian. That is the target of his book and the ingredients in much of his arguments in The Catholic Imagination.
This book would be better served by some more color photos of the artwork Greeley mentions in his book, as I found myself unfamiliar with many of the works of art, films and music listed in the essay.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a short sociological discussion (an argument actually) of the way that Catholicism views the world. As the author asserts, Catholics have an "enchanted imagination" and see the presence of God in earthly things. Catholicism is also filled with metaphors relating nature and human relationships to the nature of God. This is evident after an examination of the inside of almost any Catholic church: statues of the Virgin Mary, votive candles, stained glass, and holy water adorn the interior. These symbols are more than just outward tradition, they are a physical manifestation of the Catholic imagination. Protestants (whom Greeley contrasts with Catholics throughout the book) , on the other hand, are more likely to emphasize the distance of God from our world and hence the image of a stereotypical Protestant church as four white-washed walls. Protestants don't see God's presence in the world in the same way as Catholics and hence they don't surround themselves with these images. Neither view is better or worse than the other, simply different. In essence, this is what the book is about.
Greeley presents the results of many sociological studies and surveys among Catholics and Protestants and then gives various models (interpretations of the data). I won't discuss any more of the results that he arrives at or the data that is presented because these are, interestingly enough, not the strong point of the book. After all, poll results can be skewed by a multitude of factors. And although Greeley's interpretations of the results are certainly plausible, they are obviously only one of many such interpretations.
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