Wednesday, 4 March 2015

‘The sublime’

‘The sublime’ is a troublesome term known to have concerned Western society since at least 1AD, where it appeared in a treaties on literature and rhetoric by Longinus. The sublime has morphed throughout history, with successive generations adding to the discourse. In his book The Sublime, Simon Morley summarises these shifts:  

“Broadly speaking, four main approaches to the sublime can be identified within contemporary art and theory. These derive from Longinus, Burke, Kant and Schiller. From Longinus comes an emphasis on the transcendence of reality through the heroic act; from Burke, the idea of the sublime as an experience of shock and awe and as a destabilizing force; from Kant, the notion of the sublime as revealing a reality that is fundamentally indeterminate, undecidable and unpresentable; and from Schiller, a reading of the sublime as ecstatic experience.” (Morley, 2010, p.19). 

I see the Sublime as a transcendental connection; on a preconscious or preverbal level. An understanding through feeling, a moment of connection, being held, immersed, overwhelmed, captured - an experience of the non-definable. Its very nature makes it hard to explain, it is a personal response to some aspect of the external world. We all experience and comprehend the world in different ways, so the Sublime will be an elusive and problematic subject matter. 

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