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Publications [#350080] of Thomas J. Ferraro

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  1. Ferraro, TJ. Transgression and Redemption in American Fiction. Oxford University Press, October, 2020. 272 pages pp.
    (last updated on 2020/12/04)

    This book looks at modern American fiction in its own Italianate coloration: the interplay of sex (the red of passion), violence (the black of violence), and sanctity (the gold of redemption). Its purpose is to involve the reader in the mythopoetics of American narrative, long-lived and well overdue, in which Marian Catholicism is seen as integral to apprehending the nexus among eros, grace, and sacrifice in U.S. self-making—especially for Protestants! It starts with Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, the primary instigator, as well as with Frederic’s ingenious retelling, The Damnation of Theron Ware, a second persisting prism. Sustained revisionist accounts of five major novels (and several stories) follow: Chopin’s The Awakening, James’ The Wings of the Dove, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Cather’s The Professor’s House, and Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. Each novel is revealed not only as a melodrama of beset sexuality, as long recognized, but also as a martyr tale of forbidden love—successive, self-aware courtings of devotional Catholicism that the critical and teaching establishment has found too mysterious and too dangerous to recognize, never mind sanction. In counterpoint, Transgression & Redemption illuminates each tale in its own terms, which are often surprising yet almost always common-sensical; it identifies the special senses—beauty, courage, and wisdom—that emerge, often in the face of social terror and moral darkness, under Marian-Catholic pedagogy; and it yields an overview of the mainline of the modern American novel in which sexual transgression (including betrayal) and graced redemption (the sanctification of passion, mediated confession, martyring sacrifice) go hand in hand, syncretically.