Suggestions for a theology-based research paper?

I am a high school junior at a public school. I’ve recently been given the opportunity to create my own independent study course with an English teacher during a free period I have this semester. She’s allowing me to determine what I study, read, and write about.

I’ve developed a significant interest in theology and I’d love to weave that into my research somehow. If it were simply a theology class I would want to look at Theology of the Body, Chesterton, St. Augustine, or a similar subject, but because I’m doing this with an English teacher at a public school I’m reluctant to stray too far.

I was thinking about writing about T.S. Eliot or Flannery O’Connor, but I would appreciate any other suggestions of subtly Catholic literary figures;)

Thank you!

T. S. Eliot was Anglican, actually. He even said he had a Calvinistic temperament, if I remember right.

A forgotten poet nowadays is David Jones, a Catholic convert from Wales who was highly thought of by Eliot and others. I’ve only read an article about him, but apparently he had a whole theory of art based on Catholic theology. Pretty interesting. His main work in that area, The Anathemata, is out of print here however. I’d like to read it. Plan to.

Chesterton wrote a lot of fiction, and his Father Brown stories are very Catholic. Evelyn Waugh was Catholic, but I’ve never read him, and I do know he did a lot of comedy and it’s not always Catholic-themed. Robert Hugh Benson was an English priest who wrote an apocalyptic novel called Lord of the World. Hilaire Belloc wrote a pretty famous book called The Path to Rome, which isn’t specifically about the Church but I’ve heard good things about it.

And of course there’s Tolkien.

CS Lewis was driving at some very deep theological truths with the Narnia tales. These have been made into popular movies. If I were in a public school (and I wanted to bring in Theology through the backdoor) these movies/books would be a perfect way to discuss it.

You could try a critical analysis of Oscar Wilde’s *The Picture of Dorian Gray *. It’s an allegory of temptation and sin. It’s probably more straightforward than Flannery O’Connor’s stuff but it doesn’t lack depth. If you can do literature that did not originate in English, I’d definitely try something like Don Quixote (stick with part one) which has many themes but my favorite is finding beauty where others see trash.

What sort of theology do you like? For me, theology was always clearest at the edges. You could try comparing Catholic and Protestant literature, especially works that came from the same period and/or region. Ask questions like "what does either work say or imply about salvation, ecclesiology, scripture, etc…

Hope that helps. The trick is to narrow things down once you’ve found what you like.

Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday is a short novel that has theological implications. These could be explored without going too much into Catholic theology, in case your teacher is not a Catholic. Read any number of biographies and critical works about Chesterton. They will all have something to say about this amazing novel, the single work that Chesterton was proud of above all else he had written…

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