[lit-ideas] How Kitsch You Can Get

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 17 May 2004 10:37:35 EDT

In a message dated 5/16/2004 7:51:34 PM Eastern Standard Time, 
Henninge@xxxxxxxxxxx writes:
> "Am Baume des Schweigens hängt seine Frucht der Friede." "There hangs üpon
the tree of hushing its fruit--peace."
> Wittgenstein: 7. Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber mu� man schweigen.
> "You should hush about that of which you cannot speak."
Seeing that R. Henninge and others know German perhaps they can help me with 
this. I was reading C. Monsivais, "Aires de familia" (2000, Anagrama Essay 
Prize), and he says that 'kitch' -- as per Manuel Puig's novels -- is a "Latin 
American idiom". I turn to the OED, and says 'kitch' '[G[erman]]' which is not 
highly illuminating. I thought the word was Yddish? Anyway, it looks as hardly 
Latin American. I append below the entry from the OED -- Comments welcome, and 
I do love the novels by Puig, though -- but maybe he learned 'kitch' from the 
English, while he was living in (swing) London?

I too would like to know more about the _German_ etymology of 'kitch'. Has 
the word any cognate in English, or Latin?




From the OED


Art or objets d'art characterized by worthless pretentiousness; the qualities 
associated with such art or artifacts. Also attrib., Comb., and transf. 
1926 B. HOWARD Let. in M. J. Lancaster Brian Howard (1968) ix. 166 A healthy 
week..riding, chasing dogs and listening to â??Kitschâ?? on his wireless. 1939 
Partisan Rev. VI. 40 Kitsch is mechanical and operates by formulas. Kitsch is 
vicarious experience and faked sensations. Kitsch changes according to style, 
but remains always the same. Kitsch is the epitome of all that is spurious in 
the life of our times. 1941 AUDEN New Year Let. III. 59 Reason's depravity that 
takes The useful concepts that she makes As universals, as the kitsch. 1949 
KOESTLER Insight & Outlook 410 The more romantic a work of art, or a landscape, 
the quicker its repetitions are perceived as kitsch or â??slushâ??. 1955 20th 
Cent. June 541 In a time of crassness and stridency perhaps unique in history, 
time when an alternative civilization of kitsch is not only available to all 
but clamantly thrust upon them, it is imperative to strive for agreement, 
order, and coherence in the ranks of the cultivated. 1958 Observer 23 Feb. 14/1 
What is so extraordinary about some of these kitsch masterpieces is the way 
can be enjoyed on two planes, both as themselves and as their own parodies. 
1958 Times 4 July 13/4 Few attempts are made in England to mount productions of 
plays of the commedia dell' arte tradition; and such attempts are in danger of 
being dismissed as â??art theatre kitschâ??. 1961 Times 11 May 10/4 There are 
the same highbrows as in England, who consider that the quality of the pure 
entertainment as such is generally kitsch or trash. 1962 Times 6 Apr. 17/3 
attitude to this kitsch-culture is highly equivocal. 1965 Spectator 22 Jan. 
108/1 If leaders of the state choose their job..they must choose to be the 
victims of the kitsch and whitewash and balderdash. 1967 Ibid. 29 Dec. 812/2, I 
never seen such kitsch, not even in French provincial towns or Irish church 
bazaars. 1972 Listener 24 Aug. 236/1 A galloping fancy for Victoriana, a 
sophisticated and uncritical taste for Kitsch and the cute. 1972 New Yorker 30 
24/3 This is one of the liveliest and most popular of their kitschfests.
So kitsch v. trans. (rare), to render worthless, to affect with 
sentimentality and vulgarity; kitschy a., possessing the characteristics of 
1951 W. SANSOM Face of Innocence ii. 16 Situations that have for many become 
unendurably hackneyed, spoiled by bad artists or kitsched by politics. 1967 
Time 17 Feb. 104 The kitschy existential slogan: â??Things just happen. No 
no reason, just a happening.â?? 1969 R. PETRIE Despatch of Dove i. 19 Her 
family owned a furniture factory. â??We make..mostly kitschy bits fit to 
Grimm's fairy tales.â?? 1973 Times 27 Aug. 5/6 Costumed in a distressingly 


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