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Friday, April 03, 2009


Clare Krishan

Thanks for making the connections - here's a couple more in the same vein:
on the saccharine art of Saint Sulpice (which I can't abide and yet is favored of too many lazy Catholic webmasters - not you Carl of course, you're a guiding light for the rest of the flock gone astray) over at Lion and Cardinal blog
apropos of which a 'Flannery-O'Connor-on-sentimentality' soundbite at
and Barbara Nicolosi on sentimentality's antithesis, paradox, here at:
(Barb terms much evangelical-lite media "Christian Porn" for this very reason, damning but I agree with the thrust of her arguments)


I wonder if this rejection of kitsch might simply be snobishness towards mass produced products? Somehow I doubt that Precious Moments tchatkes will bring about the fall of Christianity.

M. L. Hearing

Yes, Clare Krishan, I have to agree about Flannery O'Connor. She was tough as nails and didn't put up with any saccharine sentimentality.

"The world of kitsch is in a certain measure a heartless world, in which emotion is directed away from its proper target towards sugary stereotypes, permitting us to pay passing tribute to love and sorrow without the trouble of feeling them." Precisely. It's what you get in a world where men have no chests--that is, trained sentiments--in Lewis' memorable image. (I always seem to come back to Lewis because I owe him a great debt.)

M. L. Hearing

Sandra Miesel

Sentimental, exaggerated religious art has been in the hands of the Lower Orders all the way back to ancient times. Religious woodcuts of the late Middle Ages look merely crude and quaint to us but they would have drawn reactions similar to Scruton's from contemporary people of discernment. Yet the most beautiful religious medals come from the late 19th to mid 20th centuries--mass produced in distressing times.

Good art can't exist without a market. People who buy the tacky offerings of the average Catholic devotional catalog probably wouldn't be interested in beautiful things.

David Deavel

Kitsch is a sign that faith is around.

You don't get hypocritical religion, superstition, or kitsch when there is no real religion around.

Go to a Unitarian or Mainline congregation. There is nothing kitschy because there's not enough belief to support ordinary people who love God and unfortunately love kitsch.

In heaven there will be no kitsch. But here it's a strange comfort, even if it drives us nuts.


Beautifully put, David. I always smirked at the "bathtub Madonnas" here in the Midwest until I met an old Polish couple who built a grotto in their backyard as a form of devotion. No money to go to Fatima, they said.

I'm also curious about whether Scruton addresses the religious as purveyors of kitsch. I have several mass-produced Miraculous Medals and holy cards sent by various Catholic charities, monasteries, etc. Not to mention the kitsch brought back from Fatima, Lourdes, etc. (My favorite is a late 1800s crucifix owned by a great-grandfather with "momento of Jerusalem" on a tin plaque attached to it.)

Dan Deeny

I like kitsch and I have great respect for the people who like kitsch. I think it's a sign of faith, deep ans sincere. (There may be exceptions of course.) I like to "buy the tacky offerings of the average Catholic devotional catalog." Just last week my wife and I bought something from one of the catalogs. I don't know for sure if I'm "interested in beautiful things", but I'd like to think I am.
People who like kitsch remind me of the Evangelicals I regularly meet. They preach the Gospel. They think Jesus died on the cross for everyone and then rose from the dead.
Roger Scruton is an interesting philosopher and always has interesting, thoughtful articles. But I think he's wrong on this one.

Sandra Miesel

Reproof taken, Dan. I tried to cram too many ideas into my post. I was disagreeing with Scruton on historical grounds: kitsch has always been with us. It's not necessarily a direct result of 19th mass production nor does it reflect the tragedies of the 20th C. Most especially, it doesn't correlate with intensity of faith. But before the '60s, inexpensive devotionals like rosaries and medals of better design were also available. Now they're not. If there's a market, they'll reappear.

Dan Deeny

Sandra, What's the definition of kitsch, and what's the definition of beauty? Can today's kitsch become tomorrow's beauty? And vice-versa?
Let's take music. The music of Mozart is better than the music of Wagner. But why?
Let's take painting. The paintings of Norman Rockwell are better than those of Picasso. Why? Why not?
Let's take literature. The work of Albert Camus is better than that of Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre is an example of how kitsch can harm the poor and oppressed.
You need to write an article!

Sandra Miesel

I could discuss some of these questions from an art historical viewpoint but a philosopher of aesthetics I ain't.

mary jane grimaldi

Whatever it takes to lead one to the dear Lord is GOOD, and whatever inspires us is definitely because of the gifts which the Dear Lord gave us - be it kitsch or something more artistic. The author should know this!

Sheryl D

There's kitsch, then there's just tasteless. The Borders bookstore in Eugene is currently selling squishy plastic Jesus & Virgin Mary bath gels. Icky!

Clare Krishan

Here's an ecumenical take: Paul Tillich anti-kitsch dislike of Dali's Sacrament of the Last Supper
(cross posted to ViaMedia thread discussion on Magister's reporting of the Da Vinci article)

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