Two Siena Heights University Professors Compile First-of-Its-Kind Anthology of American Catholic Authors
Believed to be the first anthology of its kind, “The Best American Catholic Short Stories” features 20 stories from 13 American Catholic authors over the past 75 years.
Co-editors Patricia Schnapp, RSM, and Dan McVeigh, both English professors at Siena Heights University, spent more than four years assembling the extraordinary collection that is unique in subject and scope. Major contributors to the 376-page anthology published by Sheed and Ward include Flannery O'Connor, Mary Gordon, Ron Hansen, T. Coraghessan Boyle and Richard Russo.
With the most important selection criterion being literary quality, all the short stories have a religious dimension of some sort and focus directly on Catholic spiritual life. The anthology is evenly divided between political and religious liberals and conservatives, which reflects the background of the editors.
“Dan tends to be a conservative Catholic and I tend to be more liberal,” said Schnapp, a member of the Sisters of Mercy congregation who regularly teaches a course on American Catholic writers at Siena Heights. “I think there’s a kind of ying and a yang there. Quite honestly, I think it worked to make the collection non-ideological and very balanced.”
“I think it’s a better book than either one of us would have done separately,” agreed McVeigh, who is a professor of English at Siena Heights. “We agreed on these 20 stories, and they came fairly quickly.”
The anthology also includes a balance of pre- and post-Vatican II writers, which is also by design. According to the editors, what ties the writers together is far from being a mere literary “school” or even ethnicity. The stories in this anthology mark out some of the broad territory claimed by the American Catholic imagination up to present day. A primary goal of the editors is to have readers explore, discover – and sometimes rediscover – the older major writers and (along with such familiar names as Russo and Mary Gordon) some lesser-known contemporary ones.
“I think that some Catholic writers have been beneath the radar,” Schnapp said. “Some of them are names that even people who enjoy reading for pleasure will say ‘I’ve never heard of them.’ I think this anthology is sort of an introduction to many authors who have written a number of fine novels who are represented in the book through their short stories.”
McVeigh said this anthology will hopefully appeal not only to readers interested in pre- and post-Vatican II thought and artistic expression, but to a larger audience as well. The fact that it is in short story format means the reader can complete a story or two in one sitting.
“I think there’s a possibility there of a larger readership like parish groups and book clubs,” McVeigh said.
The book, which has a list price of $17.95, is available online at booksellers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Wal-Mart.
ABOUT THE EDITORS
Dan McVeigh is a Professor of English at Siena Heights University in Adrian, Mich. His UNC-Chapel Hill doctoral dissertation was on S.T. Coleridge’s religious and literary theory. He has published articles on British Romanticism in Studies in English Literature, the Modern Language Quarterly, Christianity and Literature, Renascence, and elsewhere.
Patricia Schnapp, R.S.M.
A member of the Sisters of Mercy, of Cincinnati, Ohio, Pat Schnapp is an Associate Professor of English at Siena Heights University in Adrian, Mich. Her doctoral dissertation at Bowling Green State University was on James Baldwin’s liberation theology. She has published articles on restorative justice, along with poems in Review for Religious, Christianity and Literature, the National Catholic Reporter, and elsewhere. She regularly teaches a course on American Catholic writers.