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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Friday, March 2, 2012


Continuing in a vein sublime once more, I return to Kant for a general distinction between the sublime and the beautiful:

"The beautiful in nature concerns the form of the object, which consists in its being bounded. But the sublime can also be found in a formless object, insofar as we present unboundedness..."-- Section 245.

I should add that practically any narrative work of any kind or medium always has the *POTENTIAL* to produce either beauty or the sublime in some form, though of course the majority of these works fail to do so.  Most works, whatever their merits in other respects, are not able to bring poetic/archetypal life to the characters and situations depicted, and so are usually content to use such characters and situations purely on what I've called "functional" terms.

I mention "characters" in contradistinction to all the "sublimity" authors I've mentioned before on this blog-- Longinus, Burke, Kant, Schopenhauer-- because most of them have not referenced particular human-sized characters as exemplars of the sublime.  I'll be touching on the notion of sublime fictional characters in another post in more detail, with reference to my NUM formula, but for now, I want to lay out some basic difference between the narrative use of beauty and the narrative use of sublimity.

Briefly, though there are many works, literary and extraliterary, which conjure with the image of purely human beauty, it's debateable as to which ones succeed in the sense Kant specified.  Of course, he probably would not have seen any exemplary beauty in popular works, so he and I part on that score anyway.

Since in this essay I already referred to the 1960s story "Superman's Return to Krypton" for purposes of illustrating the sublime, it occurs to me that it's equally useful for beauty:

This, for instance, is an example of artist Wayne Boring portraying both Superman and his Kryptonian girlfriend Lyla Lerrol in terms of an ethereal but still bonded beauty:

Here, however, is the same story evoking, as I noted earlier, the passion of the two romantic characters in terms I find to be sublime in nature:

The obvious contrast between boundedness and unboundedness needs no further comment.

To be continued...

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