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Commonplaces

Piquant excerpts lifted from Touchstone editors' own reading & listening.



Thus began [in the Church] a process by which the Tradition was sentimentalized in and through kitsch—that is, mass-produced objects that, according to Clement Greenberg, depend upon "the availability close at hand of a fully matured cultural tradition, whose discoveries, acquisitions, and perfected self-consciousness kitsch can take advantage of for its own ends." That end is not to create something worthy of the Tradition. The goal of kitsch is to create objects that borrow just enough gravitas from the Tradition to seem authentic while, in fact, specious "good feelings" are placed front and center. . . .

In other words, the cheesy, the tacky, the "in poor taste" spring into life when form falls absurdly short of content. Kitsch happens when consumers are trained actually to prefer a sentimentalized form over authentic content. . . .

[C]ommodification reignites the strange engines of ancient fetishism. Just as a golden calf, with its sentimentalized associations with the gods of Egypt, could be looked to by the Israelites as a preferred option, as an idol that would provide as Yahweh provides yet without the demands of Yahweh, the modern, commodified object, trading upon its vibe of authenticity, promises to change your life while avoiding genuine engagement with the Tradition. . . .

[B]ad taste went hand in hand with bad theology. The person who favored mime homilies might well say, "I don't find the concept of Original Sin particularly helpful." The priest who offered a clown Mass might express his doubts about the Nicene Creed. . . . If a person welcomed a departure from the devotions, the architecture, even the liturgy of past tradition, he probably did this because outside the sanctuary, he was trained to prefer a sentimentalized form over authentic content.

Joseph Hatcher
"The Kitsch Council," OnePeterFive.com (July 6, 2020)


Education Commonplaces #63 Nov/Dec 2020

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