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  • The Burning Fiery Furnace and the Redemption of Religious Kitsch

    Christopher Chowrimootoo

    Chapter from the book: Chowrimootoo, C. 2018. Middlebrow Modernism: Britten’s Operas and the Great Divide.


    In the fifth chapter, The Burning Fiery Furnace (1966) is considered against the backdrop of modernist repudiations of religious kitsch. The second church parable is shown to have trodden a fine line amid contemporary oppositions: between sacred asceticism and aestheticism, mystical transcendence and authoritarian sublime. The chapter explores how its appeal to musical exoticism and minimalism seemed to free the Furnace from associations with demagoguery, fashioning a self-consciously pluralistic, rational and individualistic kind of faith. It is also suggested that the work managed to smuggle back religious registers of a more explicitly sensuous and monumental nature. Ultimately, however, it is argued that the trouble critics had separating religious aestheticism and asceticism – or even deciding which they found more compelling – raises boundary questions about twentieth-century sacred music.

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    Chowrimootoo, C. 2018. The Burning Fiery Furnace and the Redemption of Religious Kitsch. In: Chowrimootoo, C, Middlebrow Modernism. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.57.e

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    Published on Oct. 8, 2018