The Sentimental Option: How Piety Can Betray Art

I thought this was one of the most interesting pieces I have read on what the Catholic approach to art ought to be:

There are some really fun Flannery O’Connor quotes in there. :slight_smile: I particularly liked this quote on the average Catholic reader’s approach to sentimentality:

“He forgets that sentimentality is an excess, a distortion of sentiment usually in the direction of an overemphasis on innocence…We lost our innocence in the Fall, and our return to it is through the Redemption which was brought about by Christ’s death and by our slow participation in it. Sentimentality is a skipping of this process in its concrete reality…”

Kitsch would be a case in point.

For an interesting and frequently enlightening read, I would recommend Roger Scruton’s An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Modern Culture.

Thanks for posting the link to the article. Flannery O’Connor is a wonderful example of how the best literature with solid Catholic themes doesn’t preach. (Or beat the reader over the head with pious platitudes.)

Thank you for sharing! I particularly like the last paragraph by the article’s author, Denys Powlett-Jones:

“The conscience of the artist requires him to portray the world as he sees it, to be faithful to his vision in the work he creates. True religion clarifies and completes our natural vision, enabling us to see nature AND grace, virtue AND sin, comedy AND tragedy in their proper relationships. It enables us to see man as what he is, neither fully angel nor fully beast, but capable of both the bestial and the angelic by turns. The Christian vision does not require that either the artist or the reader close his eyes to the merely natural, the fallen, or any of the truths of life. It does require us to entertain the possibility that God is active even though he is not obvious—whether in life or in the representations of art. Only the faithless reader demands signs and wonders.”

This puts me to mind somewhat of something I read a long time ago. I can’t remember who wrote it. It went something to the effect that modern man neither sins well nor practices virtue well. It’s sometimes interesting to read about Renaissance-era characters who did both well, even artistically; sometimes the same person did so in turns. That’s not to say we ought to admire evil deeds or approve of them. But there is something refreshing about someone who admits he has done them and makes no effort to explain them away.

I haven’t read everything O’Connor ever wrote, but to the extent I have, I could say she was able to dig out the real nature of human acts and intentions like so much meat out of a black walnut.

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