The diabolical imagination

I would suggest that there are two particular strains of the diabolic imagination in modern society: sentimentality and obscenity, as defined by Flannery O’Connor in her excellent book Mystery and Manners. Both sentimentality and obscenity result from the separation of aesthetic and virtue. Sentimentality is “an excess, a distortion of sentiment,” according to O’Connor. Such art centers on one’s emotive response to material beauty. Sentimentality seeks physical and circumstantial perfection, and vainly searches for its idyllic embodiment. It refuses to accept human flaws, and denies any limiting or overarching norms of human action: emotion is all that matters. Sentimentality sees goodness as derived in the culmination of desire. Beauty and love are thus limited to physical and emotional fulfillment—without any overarching meaning.

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