March 03, 2013

The "S" Word

Happened across a line from Flannery O'Connor recently: "Pornography...is essentially sentimental, for it leaves out the connection of sex with its hard purpose, and so far disconnects it from its meaning in life as to make it an experience for its own sake." (From "The Church and the Fiction Writer", America Magazine, 1957.)

"Sentimental" must have very negative associations for O'Connor to be used in that context. I wonder if you could almost replace "pornography" with "cross-less Christianity": "Cross-less Christianity is essentially sentimental, for it leaves out the connection of the Crucifixion with its hard purpose, and so far disconnects it from its meaning in life as to make it an experience (of suffering) for its own sake."

4 comments:

Gregg the Obscure said...

I don't think Miss O'Connor was using "sentimental" in any way other than being quite literal, also true of your re-imagined application. When a material and productive act is made immaterial and unproductive, all that remains is sentiment. Same is true for contracepted sex or non-alcoholic beer.

TS said...

Yes, makes sense Gregg. Thanks!

William Luse said...

"Sentimental" must have very negative associations for O'Connor to be used in that context.

It sure does. A "sentimentality" to a fiction writer is (as I wrote in a movie review years ago) "an event calculated by its author to elicit from the viewer an emotional response disproportionate to its dramatic merit...[and that] its use to propel a plot is an attempt at the cheap thrill of seduction rather than the hardwork of courtship." O'Connor, a great craftsman, avoid it like the plague because it is indeed the death of good writing.

TS said...

Well-said Bill. A great craftsman indeed.