Labrie, Ross (E.) 1936-

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LABRIE, Ross (E.) 1936-

PERSONAL: Born October 17, 1936, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada; son of Ernest (a purchasing manager) and Helen (McCarthy) Labrie; married, 1966; wife's name Gisela (a translator and legal secretary); children: Mark, Steven. Education: Loyola College, B.A., 1957; McGill University, M.A., 1960; University of Toronto, Ph.D., 1966.

ADDRESSES: Home—592 Carisbrooke Rd., North Vancouver, British Columbia V7N 1N5, Canada. Office—Arts One, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4, Canada. E-mail[email protected].

CAREER: University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, instructor in English, 1962-63; University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, professor of English, 1963-2001, professor of Arts One, 2002—.

MEMBER: International Thomas Merton Society, American Studies Association, Christianity and Literature Association.

AWARDS, HONORS: Fellow, Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, 1980-81; "outstanding book" citation, Choice, 1979, for The Art of Thomas Merton.


The Art of Thomas Merton, Texas Christian University Press (Fort Worth, TX), 1979.

Howard Nemerov, G. K. Hall (Boston, MA), 1980.

James Merrill, G. K. Hall (Boston, MA), 1982.

The Writings of Daniel Berrigan, University Press of America (Lanham, MD), 1989.

The Catholic Imagination in American Literature, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 1997.

Thomas Merton and the Inclusive Imagination, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 2001.

Contributor to periodicals. Member of advisory board, Merton Annual.

SIDELIGHTS: Ross Labrie is a professor of English whose specialties include the writings of Thomas Merton and other Catholic Americans. Among Labrie's works is The Catholic Imagination in American Literature, in which he examines the writings of thirteen prominent Catholic Americans, including poets Robert Lowell and Daniel Berrigan and short-story writer Flannery O'Connor. In these writers, Labrie traces a shared perspective that he did not find in more contemporary Catholic writers. According to Labrie, the perception of being part of a cultural minority in America has influenced the work of the various writers discussed in The Catholic Imagination.

Library Journal reviewer Denise J. Stankovics deemed Labrie's study "well documented," while William F. McInerny, writing for the National Catholic Reporter Web site, called Labrie's work "a scholarly, extensively researched, incisive, probing, intellectually and spiritually stimulating analysis." McInerny concluded that the book is "exquisitely written, masterfully composed, comprehensive in scope, rich [in] insight." Patricia Dunlavy Valenti wrote in America that Labrie's book "examines how the Catholic Church's sacramental vision of a world flawed yet charged with redemptive energy infuses the poetry and fiction of selected American writers." Valenti also affirmed that Labrie's volume "will gratify those who desire broader critical attention for writers whose orbit has been predominantly Catholic or whose public acclaim has been in response to their nonliterary works." At the University of Missouri Press Web site, The Catholic Imagination in American Literature was described as a "well-written and comprehensive volume," one that "fills a distinctive place in the study of American literature."

Labrie once told CA: "How circuitous a business writing can be. I began writing about Henry James and especially about James's interest in consciousness. Somehow, this led in time to an interest in Thomas Merton, whose evocative autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, had such an influence on me as a student (I can still remember turning the pages in the bus as I crossed town every day toward my university). Merton was also interested in consciousness, as his voluminous, now fully published journals attest. Merton led me to Daniel Berrigan, a Catholic poet with whom he corresponded and who, like Merton, was an anti-Vietnam War protester. Then I realized that, although some useful work had already been done, a book that explained exactly what Catholic American literature was needed to be written, one that included writers like Merton and Berrigan, Robert Lowell, and Flannery O'Connor, Allen Tate, and Caroline Gordon, Walker Percy, and Mary Gordon. The study, published as The Catholic Imagination in American Literature, focused on writers who were practicing Catholics, whose writing was of high quality, and whose works dealt with Catholic themes. In attempting to lay out a field for study, I looked at ore with a high concentration of Catholic metal in it so that others might be able to use the book as a point of departure in dealing with American authors who might exhibit Catholic consciousness in a more attenuated form."



America, May 30, 1998, Patricia Dunlavy Valenti, review of The Catholic Imagination in American Literature, pp. 26-27.

American Literature, June, 2000, James Emmett Ryan, review of The Catholic Imagination in American Literature, p. 445.

Choice, June, 2002, D. A. Brown, review of Thomas Merton and the Inclusive Imagination, p. 1786.

Journal of American Studies, April, 1999, review of The Catholic Imagination in American Literature, p. 141.

Library Journal, March 15, 1997, Denise J. Stankovics, review of The Catholic Imagination in American Literature, p. 64.


National Catholic Reporter, (March 4, 1999), William F. McInerny, review of The Catholic Imagination in American Literature.

University of Missouri Press, (November 4, 1998), publisher's description of The Catholic Imagination in American Literature; (April 17, 2003), description of Thomas Merton and the Inclusive Imagination.