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Contemporary Catholic Writers Reading and Discussion Group

Inspired by Dana Gioia’s essay “The Catholic Writer Today” (First Things, 2013) and the myriad responses it has evoked since its publication, the CUA Contemporary Catholic Writers Group was founded in 2015 to raise awareness and appreciation of literary works by living Catholic writers and to engage the CUA community in the current broader conversation regarding the future of the Catholic literary imagination. While the group gives special attention to American Catholic writers, it also includes occasional selections of international writers and works in translation. A few times each year, the group also complements this primary focus on contemporary Catholic literature with discussions of past Catholic writers and of current (non-Catholic) writers who deal with questions of faith. 

An English graduate student initiative, this reading and discussion group is sponsored by CUA’s English department and is open to CUA graduate students and faculty from all departments, as well as independent scholars---Catholic and non-Catholic alike---who are interested in the relationship between literature and faith. Meetings are held on a monthly basis during the academic year. Guest lectures, poetry readings, and other literary events are held throughout the year and are free and open to the public.

Subscribe to the CCW email list here to receive notifications about upcoming events and book discussions. Events are also published on Facebook and The Nest. If you have questions or comments, please contact Jessica Schnepp at

President: Jessica Schnepp

Vice President: Robert Sherron

Secretary: Bethany Besteman

Faculty Advisor: Taryn Okuma

Founding Members: Jessica Schnepp and Colleen Weir

 "Saints, Sinners, and Pilgrims" Poetry Lecture and Reading by Angela Alaimo O'Donnell

Film Screening & Discussion with Mark Bosco, SJ

 Poetry Reading with Dana Gioia

 Short Fiction reading with A.G. Harmon

 An Evening of Poetry and Music with Ryan Wilson

 Guest lecture with James Matthew Wilson, Ph.D.


Upcoming Events

Why Theology Mattered to Shakespeare: Chaucer, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and the Predestination Crisis

Lecture by Lee Oser. Wednesday, September 12 @ 5pm. Pryzbyla Center, Great Room C. Sponsored by ALSCW. To reserve your free ticket click here.

The Literature You Save May Be Your Own: Forging an Idiom of Continuity in the Catholic Literary Tradition

Lecture and new fiction by Joshua Hren and Lee Oser. Wednesday, September 12 @ 7pm. Pryzbyla Center, Great Room C. To reserve your free ticket, click here. 

Traditions of Eloquence: The Jesuits and Modern Rhetorical Studies

Lecture by Cinthia Gannett and John Brereton. Wednesday, October 24 @ 2pm. Pryzbyla Center, Great Room C, Catholic University of America. To reserve your free ticket, click here.


Fall 2018 Reading List

Meeting One:

  • This Our Exile by Joshua Hren. Wednesday, September 26.  5:30 pm. RSVP here.

Meeting Two:

  • Confessions of X by Suzanne Wolfe. Wednesday, October 31. 5:30 pm. RSVP here to reserve your spot.

Meeting Three:

  • The Cloister by James Carroll. Wednesday, November 28. 5:30 pm. RSVP here to reserve your spot.

Meeting Four:

  • Poetry Party. Wednesday, December 5. 7:00 pm. Register here.



Past Events

  • Angela Alaimo O'Donnell
    "Saints, Sinners, and Pilgrims: Incarnations of the Catholic Immagination" 
    Friday, April 6, 2018 at 6pm.
    May Gallery, Mullen Library, CUA.
  • Some Bore Gifts
    Short Fiction reading with A.G. Harmon
    Wednesday, November 15, 2017, Columbus School of Law Courtroom. 5:30pm.
  • Poetry Night with Ryan Wilson and Maryann Corbett: 6pm, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017, Keane Auditorium (McGivney Hall), The Catholic University of America.
  • Flannery O'Connor: Acts of Redemption Film Screening & Discussion with Mark Bosco, SJ: 6pm, Friday, September 29, 2017, Hannan 108, The Catholic University of America
  • "Communion of Saints": Poetry Reading with Susan L. Miller: 6pm Thursday, March 16, 2017, Hannan 106, The Catholic University of America
  • "Creating Flannery O'Connor": Guest Lecture with Daniel Moran, Ph.D.: 6pm Thursday, February 9, 2017, Keane Auditorium, The Catholic University of America
  • "St. Peter's B-List": Poetry Reading with Rachel Graham, Terry Kirts, Gerry LaFemina, Susan L. Miller, Angela Alaimo O'Donnell, Susanna Rich, and editor Mary Ann B. Miller: 6pm Friday, November 18, 2016, Hannan 108, the Catholic University of America
  • "Uncommon Grace: The Life of Flannery O'Connor": Film Screening and Discussion with Bridget Kurt and Dan Kurt: 5pm Friday, November 11, 2016, Hannan 108, The Catholic University of America
  • Poetry Reading with Dana Gioia:  6pm Friday, April 22, 2016
    Keane Auditorium, The Catholic University of America
  • “The Stranger World”: An Evening of Poetry and Music with Ryan Wilson: 7pm Monday, March 21, 2016
    Pryzbyla Center Great Room A, The Catholic University of America
  • "Art is a Jealous God: Aesthetic Autonomy and the Claims of the Divine" Guest lecture with James Matthew Wilson, Ph.D. (Villanova University):
    6pm Friday, February 5, 2016 Hannan 108, The Catholic University of America



Past Reading Lists

Fall 2015:

  • “Has Fiction Lost Its Faith?” Paul Elie

  • “The Catholic Writer Today,” Dana Gioia

  • “Cultural Anorexia: Doubting the Decline of Faith in Fiction,” Gregory Wolf

  • Charming Billy, Alice McDermott

  • Mariette in Ecstasy, Ron Hansen

  • “The Catholic Imagination in Modern American Poetry,” James Matthew Wilson

  • Some Permanent Things, James Matthew Wilson

Spring 2016:

  • In the Garden of the North American Martyrs, Tobias Wolff

  • “How to Think Like a Poet,” Ryan Wilson

  • Selected Poems, Ryan Wilson 

  • 99 Poems: New and Selected, Dana Gioia

Summer 2016:

  •  Lit: A Memoir, Mary Karr
  • Gilead, Marilynne Robison

Fall 2016

  • Silence, Shusaku Endo
  • The Oracles Fell Silent, Lee Oser
  • Saint Sinatra and Other Poems, Angela Alaimo O'Donnell
  • St. Paul Lives Here (In Minnesota), Zach Czaia

Spring  2017

  • "A Good Man is Hard to Find" and "Catholic Novelists and their Readers," Flannery O'Connor
  • "The Five Wounds" and "Night at the Fiestas," Kirsten Valdez Quade
  • What Happened to Sophie Wilder, Christopher Beha
  • Film: Silence (Martin Scorsese, 2016)

Summer 2017

  • Wolf in White Van, John Darnielle
  • "The Detective of Dreams" and "The Fifth Head of Cerberus," Gene Wolfe
  • Film: The Innocents (Anne Fontaine, 2016)
  • Boxers & Saints, Gene Luen Yang

Fall 2017

  • Redeployment by Phil Klay
  • The Stranger World by Ryan Wilson
  • Some Bore Gifts by A.G. Harmon
  • Film:  Lady Bird  (Dir. Greta Gerwig).

Spring 2018

  • The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott.
  • Universal Harvester by John Darnielle. 
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. 
  • Film: Tree of Life (Dir. Terrence Malick). 

Summer 2018

  • 99 Stories of God by Joy Williams
  • LaRose by Louise Erdrich
  • I Want to Show You More by Jamie Quatro
  • Laurus by Eugene Vodolazkin