‘French endings’: Christianity, sentimentality and the arts in the context of Covid

Ewan Bowlby*

*Corresponding author for this work

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This article draws attention to the need for a theological approach to sentimentality in the arts that is informed by context. During the Covid pandemic, the value of sentimental artworks that afford respite and distraction from the grim realities of death and disease has been evident. To illustrate the dangers of absolutist, anti-sentimentalist theological arguments that overlook the significance of context in such circumstances, this article presents a challenge to the theological ‘countersentimentality’ set out by Jeremy Begbie. I argue that condemning all sentimentality in contemporary culture as a ‘disease of the feelings’ manifested in people and the arts, without paying attention to the context in which people seek out sentimental artworks, is inadvisable. Then, through analysis of two examples from literary fiction, I illustrate the weaknesses of a theological countersentimentality that evaluates artworks without reference to the situation in which they were created and received.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal for the Study of the Christian Church
VolumeLatest Articles
Early online date2 Jun 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Jun 2022


  • Sentimentality
  • Theological aesthetics
  • Begbie
  • Popular culture
  • Literature
  • Dostoevsky
  • Escapism
  • Emily in Paris
  • Pandemic
  • Dickens


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