The Catholic Culture Podcast: 140 – Let’s Get Real

August 19, 2022

Joshua Hren, author of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, editor-in-chief of Wiseblood Books, and co-founder of the new Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, returns to the podcast to discuss his recent essay, Contemplative Realism: A Theological-Aesthetical Manifesto:

As always, but especially in our current era of raging post-truth unreality, we must heed Pope Benedict XVI’s call to “ask more carefully what is really ‘true’.” So-called “realism,” when transferred to material things, it can blind us—rather than bind us—to things as they are. “Are we no longer interested in the cosmos?” Benedict asked. “Are we really hopeless? now in our own little circle? Is it not important, surely now, to pray with all creation?” If this most important thought of our time is not wrong, and “he who sets aside the reality of God is only a realist in appearance,” then we must ask with all our strength and openness: what is real? Like of the liturgy, literature asks this question in different guises with very different answers. At times, art and worship seem to belong to the manners and moods of self-referential and frivolous play, meaningless acts, or “bank notes” (says Benedict) “without the funds to pay them.” These very closed circles of communication are not changed. In the living liturgy of the cross—on the contrary—”the congregation does not offer its own thoughts or poetry but is removed from itself and given the privilege of sharing in cosmic song of praise of the cherubim and seraphim.” In living literary meditation something similar happens: we suffer and praise with all creation; prose cultivates a grateful disposition, prompting us to yearn for a vision of the whole.

But this manifesto in the name of a “contemplative realism” claims nothing to create, ex nihilo, a new aesthetical species. Nor does it advance this crude school of literary fishes as some leading or only “way forward” for fiction in our time. Rather, it aims to express a literary approach that already exists in scattered books as well as in the potential of living artists. It aims to gather and energize those souls. More than anything else, it seeks to inculcate a contemplative realist disposition in as many comers as possible—literary or otherwise. Because, in a very sinister way (to borrow Josef Pieper), “man’s ability to see is weakening.” (Publisher’s description)


Read the short version of the manifesto

Buy the full version of Contemplative Realism

Wiseblood Books

MFA program in creative writing at UST Creative -Writing/Index.aqf?Aquifer_Source_URL=%2FMFA&PNF_Check=1

This podcast is a production of If you like the show, please consider supporting us!