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Coleridge: Venetian Choral music, the Beauty of Concrete, and Flannery O’Connor’s Biopic

Coleridge is a monthly digest of noteworthy items in theology and the arts.


Two films about the 2015 Coptic martyrs in Libya are raising funds: 21 Martyrs and Son of the 11th Hour. Joseph Wilson explores the Manichaeism of Yoda (Voegelin View). Anthony Sacramone reviews Film and Faith: Modern Cinema and the Struggle to Believe, edited by Micah Watson and Carson Holloway (Law & Liberty). Kyle Smith reviews Kidnapped: The Abduction of Edgardo Mortara (The Wall Street Journal), and Amanda Fortini reflects on nuns in the movies (T Magazine).

Wildcat, the Flannery O’Connor biopic, has been praised by Jessica Hooten Wilson (Christianity Today), Fr. Damian Ference (Word on Fire), J.C. Scharl (Religion & Liberty Online), Alissa Wilkinson (The New York Times), Anthony Barr (The Dispatch), Dorian Speed (Dappled Things), Christopher J. Scalia (The Washington Free Beacon), and Nora Kenney (City Journal).


Sacred Treasures of Venice is a new recording by the London Oratory Schola Cantorum (New Liturgical Movement). New reviews at Early Music America include recordings of the earliest settings of the Song of Solomon and the music of 12th-century Sicily. Agnès Poirier writes about the new bells of Notre-Dame de Paris (Engelsberg Ideas).

Dana Gioia contrasts the American composers Gian Carlo Menotti and Carlisle Floyd (The Hudson Review). The choir Tenebrae has recorded a new Requiem by American composer Michael John Trotta. Peter Holslin reconsiders New Age music (Los Angeles Review of Books).


Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist., praises David Foster Wallace as “the preeminent diagnostician of our crisis of meaning” (Humanum). In R.O. Kwon’s fiction, Ryan Lackey finds “religion and art and desire overrunning language and all its forms” (Los Angeles Review of Books). Anne Lamott discusses her new book, “a series of parables on grace” (The Guardian). Cormac McCarthy had “a fundamental optimism concerning man and the soul” (Dappled Things).

Kristin Lavransdatter was instrumental in Valerie Stivers’s conversion to Catholicism (First Things), and Nicolette Polek’s novel Bitter Water Opera inspires further reflections on conversion from Sheluyang Peng (RealClearBooks). D.H. Lawrence had “a painfully keen eye for everything that was (and still is) dead and deadening about modern religion” (Romance and Apocalypse). Cynthia Haven introduces a new collection of René Girard’s writings (Church Life Journal).

In The New Criterion, Gary Saul Morson calls The Gulag Archipelago “the masterpiece of our time,” and Mark Falcoff remembers Evelyn Waugh’s Mexico.

Other reviews of note include Joshua Hren on new translations of Flaubert (The Hedgehog Review), Richard Harries on Conversations with Dostoevsky: On God, Russia, Literature, and Life, by George Pattison (Church Times), Rowan Williams on Facing Down the Furies: Suicide, the Ancient Greeks, and Me by Edith Hall (The New Statesman), and Max Egremont on A.N. Wilson’s biography of Hilaire Belloc (Literary Review). Simon Heffer reassesses G.K. Chesterton, and Joseph Pearce replies.

Danny Heitman reviews the Library of America edition of Walker Percy (The Wall Street Journal), and Peter Kwasniewski denies that Flannery O’Connor was a Teilhardian gnostic (Tradition & Sanity). Yuliia Vintoniv looks at the war in Ukraine through the eyes of C.S. Lewis and Maksym Kryvtsov (Church Life Journal). Graham McAleer sees Carl von Clausewitz’s ideas about war in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth (Law & Liberty). Jesse Russell reviews James Siburt’s Myth, Magic, and Power in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth (Voegelin View).


Sally Thomas writes on “Jonathan Edwards, Walt Whitman, and the last days of natural philosophy” (Poems Ancient and Modern), Anthony Esolen on Milton’s Adam and Eve (Word & Song), and Grace Hamman on George Herbert’s “Paradise” (Medievalish).

James Matthew Wilson reviews Cosmic Connections: Poetry in the Age of Disenchantment by Charles Taylor (National Review) and The Bible and Poetry by Michael Edwards (Public Discourse); Joseph Bottum reviews W.H. Auden’s The Shield of Achilles, edited by Alan Jacobs (Washington Examiner).

Anthony Domestico interviews Philip Metres (Commonweal), and Abram van Engen interviews Marilyn Nelson and Christian Wiman (The Hedgehog Review).

Newly reviewed collections include An Ordinary Life by B.H. Fairchild (Plough), The Nature of Things Fragile by Peter Vertacnik (Ad Fontes), Searching for Home by Robert Pack (Current), All Souls by Saskia Hamilton (Commonweal), Ponds by J.C. Scharl (Voegelin View), Saint Thomas and the Forbidden Birds by James Matthew Wilson (National Catholic Register), Old Songs by Olga Sedakova (Aleteia), and The Invention of the Darling by Li-Young Lee (Poetry Foundation).


John Paul Sonnen profiles a new church in Cayalá, a new urban quarter of Guatemala (Liturgical Arts Journal; more about Cayalá in The New York Times). Frederick Hervey-Bathurst reviews Living Tradition: The Architecture and Urbanism of Hugh Petter by Clive Aslet (The New Criterion).

In Comment, Jason Ferris asserts “the healing power of church architecture” and Matthew J. Milliner interviews Amanda Iglesias on “the architecture of prayer.” Katie Kresser interprets Il Gesù by means of René Girard’s concept of mimetic desire (Christian Scholar’s Review).

In “The Beauty of Concrete,” Samuel Hughes demonstrates that modern building materials and economics are not incompatible with beautiful ornament (Works in Progress). Photographer Jamie McGregor Smith highlights 12 favorites from his new book, Sacred Modernity: The Holy Embrace of Modernist Architecture (Dezeen). Michael Strand argues that modern architecture is “designed to demoralize” (Front Porch Republic).

Mark Dooley places beauty at the forefront of “the battle for the soul of civilization” (Public Discourse). Peter Hitchens visits Chartres Cathedral (The Lamp). The former Byzantine Church of St. Savior in Chora has been reopened as a mosque (Catholic News Agency and National Catholic Register).

Classic Art

The Getty Museum in Los Angeles has acquired 17 drawings, including Daniel’s Vision by Luigi Sabatelli and Susannah and the Elders by Guercino.

The 15th-century Brancacci Chapel in Florence (Finestre sull’Arte), the 1520 Madonna of the Cherries by Quinten Massys (Hyperallergic and Christie’s) and the 1888 Good Shepherd window from St. Stephen’s Presbyterian in Galveston, Texas (Texas Monthly), have all been newly restored.

New exhibitions include William Blake’s Universe at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge (Seen and Unseen), Caravaggio’s Ecce Homo at the Prado Museum in Madrid (AP News and Catholic News Agency), the Renaissance father and son Filippo and Filippino Lippi at the Capitolini Museums in Rome, The Arts in France under Charles VII, 1422–1461 at the Musée de Cluny in Paris (Apollo), A New Look at Jan van Eyck: The Madonna of Chancellor Rolin, at the Louvre (The New Criterion). and Skin, Script, Spirit: Ethiopia at the Icon Museum in Massachusetts (National Catholic Reporter).

Contemporary Art

Tulio Higgins reviews The Modern Saints: Portraits and Reflections on the Saints, by Ohio Catholic iconographer Gracie Morbitzer (Fare Forward), and David Clayton praises West Virginia Orthodox iconographer Nicholas Hughes (The Way of Beauty). Greek iconographer George Kordis has posted several new works on his website, and has a new book out (both in Greek).

Ydi Coetsee Carstens introduces Gideon Nel’s The Sower, 136 (ArtWay), and Arthur Aghajanian reflects on Yervand Kochar’s 1959 sculpture of David of Sassoun in Yerevan, Armenia (Common Good). Other recent essays reconsider modern American artists Joseph Stella (Art & Theology), N.C. Wyeth (Tradition & Sanity), and Corita Kent (The Sacred Images Project). Brepols has published Revisiting the Rothko Chapel and Theology, Modernity, and the Visual Arts.


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