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British and Catholic?

National and Religious Identity in the Work of David Jones, Evelyn Waugh and Muriel Spark

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Martin Potter

Since the Reformation, Catholics in Britain have been faced with an outsider status that has often given rise to conflict between their British national and Catholic religious identities. This study examines the ways in which this problematic history is addressed by three twentieth-century British authors: David Jones, Evelyn Waugh and Muriel Spark. Focusing on works by these writers, in which issues of national and religious identity are particularly prominent, the author argues that they share a reconciliatory approach to the matter of British and Catholic identity, an approach derived from the Catholic tradition and inspired by ideas such as those of Newman. This allows the writers to see ostensibly conflicting identities in the light of their contribution towards ultimate harmony in the life of the individual or community. The theory of reconciliation espoused by Jones, Waugh and Spark is contrasted with the views expressed by G. K. Chesterton and Graham Greene, who also write from a British and Catholic perspective, but arrive at very different conclusions.

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