One Reason Why Propagandistic Art Is Usually Lousy

“The vital power of an imaginative work demands a diversity within its unity; and the stronger the diversity, the more massive the unity. Incidentally, this is the weakness of most ‘edifying’ or ‘propaganda’ literature. There is no diversity. The Energy is active only in one part of the whole, and in consequence the wholeness is destroyed and the Power diminished.”

Dorothy Sayers

HT: Rebecca Reynolds


  1. Hmmm. I wonder what is classified as propaganda literature? Would a novel like The Shack be considered propaganda? Can a novel keep a sense of unity while exploring a single deeply held belief? I don’t agree totally with Sayers’ comment that the power of a work is diminished if there is only a single focus rather than a diversity of thought/ideas. I do agree that a novel must be “whole” to carry that special energy which makes it readable.

    Interesting quote!
    Judy, South Africa

  2. I think part of what Sayers might be saying is that in propaganda literature (and art), the whole of the piece is bent in service of the message. Thus, the story looses its texture (what she calls diversity) and ends up being flattened in service of the message. The irony is that while some Christian propaganda literature does this in an attempt to serve the Christian story, it generally results in destroying the beauty of that story.

  3. What Kyle said. 🙂

    The weakness of utilitarian work is just that. The Christian art that is merely vehicle, usually messes up both the car and the passenger.

  4. Cool quote.

    I wonder if Sayers would find the Gospels to be a propagandistic work?

    All in all, I think Christendom needs to lay off Sayers. She had some good ideas and some terrible ones… welcome to the world.

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