The roots that clutch: English Catholicism, nationalism, and modernism

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Patrick A. McCarthy - Committee Chair


This dissertation considers the historical, aesthetic, and spiritual factors that resulted in various English literary Modernists' conversion to Catholicism in approximately the half-century before WWII; it also examines how Catholic thought and spirituality in turn influenced the formation and definition of literary Modernism in England. An additional central concern of this project is to delineate how conversion to Catholicism affected each artist's notion of England as nation or empire, as well to determine how conversion repositioned his personal place in that sphere of nationalism. The Introduction outlines the methodology of the project as well as discusses the political and social place of Catholics in England in the nineteenth century. The first chapter addresses Gerard Manley Hopkins's spiritual and precociously Modernist poetry, with a focus on his difficulty reconciling his conversion with his ardent nationalism. Chapters Two and Three discuss the two most consciously Modernist artists, Ford Madox Ford and then T. S. Eliot. In the fourth chapter I turn my attention to Evelyn Waugh, whose mid-career conversion led to a new aesthetic and moral purpose in his novels. The final chapter considers the novels of Graham Greene, with an emphasis on his portrayal of the psychology of being Catholic in an increasingly global world.


Literature, Modern; Literature, English

Link to Full Text


Link to Full Text