the Sublime

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Sublime, the


an aesthetic category characterizing the inner significance of objects and phenomena and revealing a discrepancy between their high ideal content and the real forms of their expression.

The concept of the sublime arose at the dawn of antiquity. The sublime characterized a special style of oratorical speech, as shown, for example, in the treatise by Pseudo-Longinus On the Sublime, dating from the first century A.D. (Russian translation, 1826). This meaning of the term was retained until the Renaissance. In classicism N. Boileau, C. Batteux, and others developed a doctrine of “high” and “low” styles of literature. As an independent aesthetic concept the sublime was first worked out in E. Burke’s treatise A Philosophical Inquiry Into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful (1757). Burke links the sublime to man’s innate feeling of self-preservation and sees the source of the sublime in all that “in one way or another is capable of evoking the idea of suffering or danger, that is, all that which, in one way or another, is full of dread” (Istoriia estetiki, vol. 2, Moscow, 1964, p. 103).

I. Kant in his Critique of Judgment (1790) provided a systematic analysis of the dichotomy between the beautiful and the sublime (Soch., vol. 5, Moscow, 1966, pp. 249-88). If the beautiful is characterized by a definite form and limited nature, then the essence of the sublime lies in its limitless, infinite grandeur and its incommensurability with the human capacity for contemplation and imagination. The sublime reveals the dual nature of man: it overwhelms him as a physical being and compels him to acknowledge his own finite and limited nature; at the same time, however, it exalts him as a spiritual being and awakens in him the ideas of reason and the awareness of his moral superiority even over nature, which is physically incommensurate and overpowering. Because of its moral character and its connections with the idea of freedom, Kant places the sublime above the beautiful. J. F. Schiller, developing these Kantian ideas in On the Sublime (1792), speaks of the sublime not only in nature but also in history. Subsequently, Schiller overcomes the Kantian dichotomy of the beautiful and the sublime by introducing the unifying concept of the ideally beautiful.

In the further development of German aesthetics the emphasis in the interpretation of the sublime was shifted from the perception of it to the correlation between idea and form, or between what is expressed and its means of expression. J. P. Richter defined the sublime as infinity conceived in relation to a sense object (Vorschule der Asthetik, Hamburg, 1804), and F. W. Schelling defined it as the embodiment of the infinite in the finite. For K. Solger the sublime is an idea that is not yet fully manifest and that is still “to be disclosed” (Vorlesungen uber Aesthetik, Leipzig, 1829, pp. 242-43). For Hegel it is the disparity between an individual phenomenon and the infinite idea expressed by it.

Marxist aesthetics does not set up a dichotomy between the sublime and the beautiful, and it considers the sublime in close connection with heroism, with the ardor of struggle and of the creative activity of the masses. The sublime is inseparable from the ideas of man’s greatness and dignity. In this it is akin to the tragic, which is a special form of sublime ardor.


Chernyshevskii, N. G. “Vozvyshennoe i komicheskoe.” In Izbr. filosofskie sochineniia, vol. 1. Moscow, 1950. Pages 252-99.
Borev, lu. B. Kategorii estetiki. Moscow, 1959. Chapter 2.
Kagan, M. S.Lektsiipo marksistko-leninskoi estetike, part 1. Lenin-grad, 1963. Pages 69-88.
Seidl, A. Zur Geschichte des Erhabenheitsbegriffes seit Kant. Leipzig, 1889.
Hippie, W. J. The Beautiful, the Sublime, the Picturesque in Eighteenth-Century British Aesthetic Theory. Carbondale, Ill., 1957.
Monk, S. H. The Sublime . . . [2nd ed.]. Ann Arbor, Mich., 1960.


References in periodicals archive ?
Finally, even though the hero is threatened by the sublime, it is important to note that he is still intimately connected with nature, by which I mean he, like the heroine, does not possess guile.
In her final chapter, on the Querelle des Anciens et des Modernes, Gilby vigorously demonstrates how, despite Boileau's insistence, the misapprehension of the sublime perpetrated by Perrault (compounding that of d'Aubignac and Sacy) was able to develop into a fully fledged part of that controversy, where once again the adversaries were talking and thinking at cross purposes: the Modernes attacking the Anciens for their irrationally ecstatic sublime; the Anciens maintaining that the sublime was something different, something more human and social than the rationalist thought of the Modernes would allow.
The issue that seems to push the recovery movement beyond the usual to the sublime is that at its essence, the move-ment has revised the expectations upward for how treatment should be approached for those with so-called serious mental illness.
4) Writing in the first century CE, Longinus described the sublime as a lofty quality of speech that effected a kind of transport for the audience.
Juxtaposing Hogg's novel with Godwin's Caleb Williams and De Quincey's "On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts," McGuire sets out to show how the first two authors deploy the sublime "as a way of both representing crime and interrogating its potential as a signifier for broader historical/ideological concerns" (83), namely, "the nature of political tyranny in Godwin and the ideological inheritance of the Enlightenment in Hogg" (84).
The "translation" of a concept of the sublime into epic theory has the potential to reorient our understanding of arguably the most prestigious genre of the sixteenth century.
Still, La Grande Bellezza does not end on a melancholic note: once the immensity of time lost is made visible through the sublime moments of recognition, images of salvation also start to appear.
It presented new work by Marc Quinn, who after subverting classical ideals of perfection in his sculptures of disabled models has begun dismantling Romantic notions of the sublime in a series of distorted and degraded three-dimensional seascapes.
Here, I will also discuss whether or not it is adequate to consider the feeling of the sublime as a product of human rationality and morality contrary to the picture of human life presented in Nietzsche's Dionysian Worldview.
In this detailed, scholarly work Emily Brady seeks to renew the aesthetic concept of the sublime by clarifying its heritage and demonstrating its relevance to contemporary, environmental sensibilities.
Hans Adler also focuses on the eighteenth century, with emphasis on how the grotesque and the sublime belong to "la categorie de l'impossible" (209).
Struck down by an irresistible force (in Schiller, "nature" as external fate or mechanistic causality, and as internal human drives) the sublime heroine realises that her physical-sensuous powerlessness is not the final word.