This paper will focus on three influential figures with regards to the defining of the sublime: the Greek philosophy and writer Dionysius Longinus, the 18th Century Irish philosopher Edmund Burke, and Kant. Through examining each of their takes on what the sublime is, and where it springs from, the goal is to lay out a broader appreciation on what the sublime has been interpreted to be. The concept of the sublime is first attributed to the Greek critic Dionysius Longinus. Addressing the question of where the sublime exists that it can be brought out by language, Longinus gives five sources: 1 through boldness and grandeur of thoughts; 2 through the raising of passions to their highest degree; 3 through the skillful application of both feeling and language in writing; 4 through the use of graceful expression; and 5 through a dignified and grand composition of sentences The common theme in each case is stretching and surpassing rationality through thoughts made grand in writing, thoughts that pull the audience out of their common ideas and into a larger arena, forcing the audience to think and perceive in a mode beyond normality.
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This paper will focus on three influential figures with regards to the defining of the sublime: the Greek philosophy and writer Dionysius Longinus, the 18th Century Irish philosopher Edmund Burke, and Kant.
Through examining each of their takes on what the sublime is, and where it springs from, the goal is to lay out a broader appreciation on what the sublime has been interpreted to be. The concept of the sublime is first attributed to the Greek critic Dionysius Longinus. Addressing the question of where the sublime exists that it can be brought out by language, Longinus gives five sources: 1 through boldness and grandeur of thoughts; 2 through the raising of passions to their highest degree; 3 through the skillful application of both feeling and language in writing; 4 through the use of graceful expression; and 5 through a dignified and grand composition of sentences The common theme in each case is stretching and surpassing rationality through thoughts made grand in writing, thoughts that pull the audience out of their common ideas and into a larger arena, forcing the audience to think and perceive in a mode beyond normality.
The sublime, then, is the masterfully crafted force of language so powerful that it overcomes rationality, causing the audience to submit to incomprehensible feelings, and leaving them overwhelmed and in awe of the experience that transported them into a realm of sentiment beyond description. It does not lay waiting in an object ready to leap out at those who happen upon it, or is feeling that can be recognized in nature at all, but rather is an overcoming of conventional thought that is created and brought out through powerful language.
As only the greatest, most talented, and ingenious writers and thinkers could produce the sublime, these works were at the same time beautiful and well loved. The sublime and the beautiful, then, work hand in hand, with the sublime experience being at the same time an experience of beauty that surpasses normal limitations of thought and sentiment.
The sublime remained attached to concepts of beauty as well, as neither were thought to be completely exclusive of the other in their traits and in their portrayal. As a result, although Longinus and Burke still agree that the sublime in effect wrenches the individual away from normality by an incomprehensible feeling, their ascription of the origin of the sublime is drastically different.
According Longinus, the sublime is created by humans through an elevation of language and thought to their highest, most overpowering levels, pulling individuals out of their comfort zones into a feeling of incomprehension.
Consequently, Burke argues that the sublime is not dependent on language for its evocation, but perhaps is best felt when encountering natural objects that produce a delightful fear. In other words, the sublime is not a reaction to the grand scope of a thought, as it is described by Longinus, but rather by the terror evoked by an object of thought, whether that object is big or small.
Similarly, the sublime can be elicited both from objects of sight or of thought, as both have the power to invoke terror without actually causing pain, and as such are both potential sources for the sublime. Again, this fear of power can come from a big or small object, as well as simply from a thought.
Witnessing an animal or an object with immense power creates the sublime by recognition of the potential pain that could be caused by such force, even if the threat never materializes.
An example of this fear of power may be witnessing an avalanche, as the sheer, destructive force of the landslide creates in the observer a feeling of the sublime due to recognizing the potential for pain even when fear itself is not present.
With his assertion that the origin of the sublime lies in objects of pain instead of in the grand working of thought, language, and literature, Burke provides a new perspective against Longinus that he further drives home with his portrayal of the sublime and the beautiful as antithetical forces.
Longinus maintains that beauty and the sublime coincide, a claim supported by works of great literature in which the genius writer is able to lift the audience with the grand language of the sublime, which is also regarded as a beautiful writing. Burke argues, though, that beauty and the sublime are as opposed as night and day and can never coincide.
This is because for Burke, unlike Longinus, one can never find the sublime beautiful, as the sublime is ultimately founded on an object that causes fear, while a beautiful object can never be sublime since the origin of beauty is in perceiving a pleasurable object For example, Kant would agree that the avalanche elicits a feeling of the sublime to the extent the observer is removed from the actual path of destruction, and is therefore able to reflect upon the power of the landslide.
This reflection though, points to a likely split between Longinus, Burke, and Kant. An example of this is reflecting upon the infinite. Reason, on the other hand, tells the person that the infinite makes sense even though it is incomprehensible, and so triumphs over the failure of the imagination. The resulting sensation, of sentimental incomprehension that still makes rational sense, is the sublime.
Instead, he would argue that the sublime comes from the failure of imagination to fully comprehend an object of immense terror or pain, which results in a feeling of delight brought on by the transcendence of reason. While both assert that this delight is a characteristic of the sublime then, each have different conclusions. Burke wants to stop at the sensation, saying that the sublime is simply the detachment from the potentially pain inducing object of perceived terror.
Kant agrees that the sublime could not exist without the detachment, but argues that the delight of the sublime arises due to the superiority of reason over the failure of imagination to sensibly comprehend an object.
Consequently, as Burke went in a different direction than Longinus in searching for the sources of the sublime beyond the feelings elicited in language, thought, and writing, Kant went away Burke in looking beyond sentiments and feelings to the relation of these feelings to reason and to their inability to comprehend the objects they address.
As a result, the divergent interpretations that Longinus, Burke, and Kant have of the sublime show that as a concept it is has undergone continuous changes and is still not well agreed upon. Noting these different opinions and theories, though, prompts questions such as whose understanding is actually right, whether the three philosophers discussed are each talking about different types of the sublime or whether they are talking about the same thing at all , and what the underlying characteristics of the sublime actually are.
Works Cited Shaw, Philip. The Sublime. New York: Routledge, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, Posted by.
Shelves: ancient , of-best-sentence-and-moost-solaas The text here is the Havell translation. Its introduction is thoughtful regarding the identity of the author; I happen to prefer, aesthetically, the thesis that author is the cat executed by Aurelian when the latter became restitutor orientis. Heavily laden with tautology and other faux definitions that simply remove the mystery one step, the text is happy to state that the Sublime acting with an imperious and irresistible force, sways every reader 2. We might identify this when a passage The text here is the Havell translation.
Cassius Longinus (philosopher)
Authorship[ edit ] The author is unknown. In the 10th-century reference manuscript Parisinus Graecus , the heading reports "Dionysius or Longinus", an ascription by the medieval copyist that was misread as "by Dionysius Longinus. Since the correct translation includes the possibility of an author named "Dionysius", some have attributed the work to Dionysius of Halicarnassus , a writer of the 1st century AD. The error does imply that when the codex was written, the trails of the real author were already lost.
Dionysius Longinus on the Sublime (1838)
Email this page In the estimation of many literary critics and critical historians who have surveyed the rich offerings of classical literary criticism and theory, the treatise On the Sublime, written by probably in the first century A. The author of this singular literary analysis, however, remains shrouded in such a veil of obscurity and competing claims regarding his identity that it may be impossible to know with certainty who he was or where and when he lived. At least two other 15th-century manuscripts of On the Sublime exhibit the latter, indeterminate attribution. The first major claim argues that Longinus is indeed the Cassius Longinus whose connection with the treatise had been assumed by classicists and literary scholars of the late Renaissance and Enlightenment. The most recent champion of this view has been G. According to what little is known about him, Cassius Longinus was a Greek living under Roman rule in the eastern Mediterranean, and he wrote in Greek.