Beauty as transcendent in Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Muriel Spark, and Rumer Godden.


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Sacramentality—the close interrelation between the spiritual and the physical—plays an important role in the Catholic Church. To most Catholics, almost any object can be a means of receiving the grace of God and entering further into the divine life. This perspective has significant implications for understanding the material world. Rather than seeing physical objects as merely physical, a sacramental view sees the inherent spiritual possibilities of all physical reality. This perspective extends to conceptions of beauty. Instead of seeing beauty as trivial and purely immanent, the authors in this project—Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Muriel Spark, and Rumer Godden—all saw its potential for transcendence. Interestingly, they all had quite different ways of emphasizing beauty’s transcendence in their writing. Waugh accomplished this by focusing on the role of the human person in beauty, especially the human person as it encapsulates both the physical and the spiritual. Greene treated beauty the same way he treated goodness, which gave it the status of a transcendental. Spark demonstrated her awareness of beauty’s transcendence by reclaiming its connection with sublimity. Finally, Godden also recognized beauty’s close connection to sublimity, but she believed that sublimity needed to be kept in check so that it did not compete with God. She offered community as the solution for a love of beauty that leads to a right relationship with God and others. Though in disparate ways, these British Catholic authors all saw beauty as capable of transcendence, as something that has spiritual qualities in addition to its physical ones.



Beauty. Evelyn Waugh. Graham Greene. Muriel Spark. Rumer Godden.