The latest issue of LMU, the magazine of Loyola Marymount University, features an interview with a name well known to Catholics and especially America readers: poet and essayist Dana Gioia.
Gioia, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts and now the Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture at USC, spoke to the magazine about many of the themes from his recent and widely read First Thingsessay, "The Catholic Writer Today," in particular the great divorce between the Catholic Church and the arts. Said Gioia in this recent interview: "The Church has focused on so many other things -- such as poverty, social justice, theology, liturgical reform and education -- that it gradually lost not only its expertise in art but even its basic interest . . . When one thinks of contemporary Catholic art, what comes to mind is the banal, the maudlin, the didactic and the amateurish."
Candid and clear, Gioia had this to say about the decline of American culture: "If you asked a college student to list 100 famous living people, I doubt you would find a single scientist, philosopher, poet, painter, humanitarian or saint. The values of a culture emerge in whom it chooses to celebrate. I don't feel proud of living in a society that celebrates Donald Trump, Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan."
In the interview, Gioa also discussed the relationship between art and theology. For Gioia, "art is different from theology as a way of knowing and expressing the world. Art is experiential, holistic, intuitive and sensory. Theology is abstract, conceptual and rational. The two modes do not overlap or blur into one another."
The rest of the interview includes Gioia's thoughts on a range of matters and people, including the Catholic imagination, the relationship between Catholics and history, Flannery O'Connor and George Tooker. The entire interview is well worth the read and, when paired with the "The Catholic Writer Today," offers Catholic educators much to contemplate during these summer weeks.
Gioia's First Things essay has been published as a monograph by Wiseblood Books. Click here to order.