Today's post is part two of my feature of Joseph Pearce, a professor, writer, and editor I met this summer at the C. S. Lewis Summer Institute (www.cslewis.org) at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. In addition to being the author of numerous acclaimed biographies of major Catholic literary figures, Joseph is a Writer-in-Residence and Professor of Literature at Ave Maria University (www.naples.avemaria.edu) in Florida. He is also Editor-in-Chief of Ave Maria University Communications and Sapientia Press, as well as Co-Editor of The Saint Austin Review (or StAR) (www.staustinreview.com), an international review of Christian culture, literature, and ideas published in England (St Austin Press) and the United States (Sapientia Press). Joseph regularly speaks at a wide variety of religious, cultural, and literary events.
LeAnne: On Monday, you discussed the arts and culture. What would you say to artists who are struggling in our culture to blend their Christian faith and their art?
I would say that they need to keep the nature of creativity, as I’ve described, at the center of their creative focus. Creativity is a gift from God and, it should be offered up to Him as a gift in return. If the Christian artist does this he will no longer have to worry about “blending” his faith with his art; his art will be a natural and supernatural expression of his faith. His faith will become magically or miraculously incarnate in his art! Christ will become flesh in his work. As such, a Christian artist should never abuse the gift by trying to use the gift to create Christian propaganda. Art is not propaganda, and propaganda is not art. If we trust the Giver of the gift of creativity, He will pour Himself out, in grace, through the creative process. We should not try to make Christ talk, we should let Him talk.
In addition to books and journal and newspaper articles, you write poetry. Which poets have influenced you the most and why?
That’s a good question – and a difficult one! There have been so many. Among the most important are Dante, Hopkins, Sassoon, Belloc, Eliot, Francis Thompson, R.S. Thomas, George Herbert and St John of the Cross. Other literary influences who have been very important, though perhaps not strictly in the poetic sense, are John Henry Newman, J.R.R. Tolkien, G.K. Chesterton and last, but emphatically not least, Shakespeare.