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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...

Monday, April 29, 2013


I began writing about the various iterations of "the sublime" as defined by such authors as Longinus, Burke, and Kant with the intent of comparing this affect with the more widely known "sense of wonder."  As I sought to formulate some common ground used by all authors, I came up with this:

Longinus, Burke and Kant all agree that the affect of sublimity comes into being only through a subject's contact with some overwhelming power/might/infinitude.
This suggested to me the affect Rudolf Otto termed the *mysterium tremendum,* but even prior to reading Otto I did not think that this was an adequate characterization of all aspects of sublimity/sense of wonder.  Here I noted:

In AGE OF WONDERS David Hartnell centers his definition of the term "sense of wonder" in an awestruck fascination with strange phenomena that does not suggest the aspect of the *mysterium tremendum:*
Similarly, at times I sought to expand on the meanings explicitly stated by the philosophers, to bring it into line with my impressions of the sublimity in myth.

Neither Burke nor Kant demonstrate any great fascination with mythic symbolism as such. However, I would expand some of the terms they use to describe the sublime, such as "might" or "magnificence," to include the sense of a greater mythic pattern that brings the events of a given story into the wider "family" of mythic narrative.

Once again, I repeat the W.B. Yeats quote I used in my first post here as a touchstone for the "familial" nature of myths of all kinds:

“It is the charm of mythic narrative that it cannot tell one thing without telling a hundred others. The symbols are an endless inter-marrying family. They give life to what, stated in general terms, appears only a cold truism, by hinting how the apparent simplicity of the statement is due to an artificial isolation of a fragment, which, in its natural place, is connected with all the infinity of truths by living fibres.”
Now, however, rather than simply seeing this as an "expansion," I think that I was actually seeking to conflate two distinct aspects of the sublime.

I'll be expounding on the dichotomy further in Part 2, but I end this retrospective post by noting that the majority of my posts dealing with "the sublime" deal with only one species of its nature, what Kant calls the "dynamic sublime" in CRITIQUE OF JUDGMENT.  Most of these posts have dealt with the sublime in its aspect of "might," but there is another aspect that proves equally important, particularly with regard to my recent attempt to suss out the quality of sublimity within the three phenomenal worlds, seen here.

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