Sunday, June 9, 2013

Dawson’s Christendom and the Catholic Intellectual Life

by Bradley J. Birzer

As it turned out, the Christendom trilogy served as the last great work of English-Welsh historian and man of letters Christopher Dawson (1889-1970). Sort of. The trilogy derived, originally, from lectures Dawson had delivered while teaching at Harvard University between 1958 and 1962. As desired, the Christendom trilogy would consist of The Formation of Christendom (1967);The Dividing of Christendom (1965); and The Return to Christian Unity. (1) In the broad, each volume represented one of three great periods of the Christian world: the ancient-medieval nexus; the Reformation and Counter Reformation; and the Church in the age of democracy, nationalisms, and ideologies. 

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Saturday, June 1, 2013

Religion & Culture: Christopher Dawson as Superlative Guide

by Robert M. Woods

There is a popular series of books entitled, “Eat This, Not That.” The premise of the series is that of all the foods out there, some are healthier for you than others or some are not as unhealthy as others. We can classify this essay as a “Read This, Not That.” With the growing number of published works by fundamentalist atheists, let me suggest when trying to think through the complex issues of religious reality and human cultures, one should read Christopher Dawson and not the venomously ill-informed works of those who seem driven primarily by profit and not generous, well informed scholarship.​ 

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Friday, May 31, 2013

Conservatism: A Lecture by Christopher Dawson

Introduction and Notes by Joseph T. Stuart

The handwritten manuscript for this lecture “Conservatism” was found recently among the papers of the Catholic historian of culture Christopher Dawson (1889–1970),[1] housed at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. The lecture was never published. While it is not clear where or even if this lecture was actually delivered, Dawson seems to have addressed himself to a Conservative group, as is evident in his reference to his audience in section I. It is dated June 1932.  

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Friday, March 8, 2013

Catholics and the Bourgeois Mind

by Thomas Storck

In 1935 Christopher Dawson published a wonderful article with the title “Catholicism and the Bourgeois Mind.”[1] His article seems more relevant to Catholics in North America today than ever, for we are confronted with more clearly demarcated cultural choices now than fifty, or even twenty years ago. Specifically, we see various subcultural groups espousing some of the ideas that Dawson considers a natural part of Catholic civilization, but, for the most part, these groups have no connection with the Church, are not aware of their sometimes profound sympathy with important elements of Catholic culture, and, more strange still, these groups and their way of life are rejected by otherwise zealous and orthodox Catholics. 

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Christopher Dawson and the History We Are Not Told

by Jeffrey Hart

The first impression one has upon opening a book by Christopher Dawson is of what can be called the romance of learning, a romance experienced as an independent aesthetic category apart from the substance of that learning. We experience here the aesthetic appeal of sheer erudition, the sort of excitement that pervades Montaigne’s Essays, Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, Browne’s Religio Medici, and many passages in Paradise Lost. It is the special aesthetic appeal of Old Books, an appeal that Walter Pater and T. S. Eliot knew well how to exploit.

Dawson did not publish until he was forty, but from early youth, he was a man of books-thousands of volumes of them in various languages. You encounter in Dawson names you have never heard of, connections and comparisons  you have never seen before, scholarly vistas unthought of suddenly opening before you. His erudition, however, works in the service of a large central project: recovering the continuities of Western culture and reshaping in a dramatic way our sense of the history of Western civilization.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Christopher Dawson revival?

by Brian Van Hove, S.J.

We have waited a long time to see the works of Christopher Dawson reappear. One of the joys of the new millennium is to discover this expectation partially fulfilled. The reprints came out after the biography written by his daughter Christina Scott: A Historian and His World: A Life of Christopher Dawson, 1889-1970 (Transaction Publishers, 1991).

Ignatius Press has given us The Formation of Christendom and The Dividing of Christendom as well as the wonderful related study of Bradley Birzer, Sanctifying the World: The Augustinian Life and Mind of Christopher Dawson, originally published by Christendom Press in 2007.

The Catholic University of America Press currently lists twelve titles: Progress and Religion, Medieval Essays, The Crisis in Western Education, Christianity and European Culture, The Judgment of the Nations, Enquiries into Religion and Culture, The Movement of World Revolution, and The Making of Europe as now again in print. Also from the CUA Press are two edited collections containing some of Dawson’s works, The Third Spring and Christianity and European Culture [which] contains The Historic Reality of Christian Culture (1960) and selections from The Making of Europe (1932), The Judgment of the Nations (1943), and Medieval Essays (1959). There was still until 2012 a void for his 1928 classic, The Age of the Gods, which Bernard Lonergan once said he had read several times. Religion and Culture is scheduled for 2013, the latest of CUA’s reprints.