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Experiencing the Sublime

In the art world the "sublime" is the quality of greatness beyond calculation. The difference between feeling emotions about a piece of art and having a sense of sublimity is that for something to be sublime you must be able to remove yourself from the situation, step back, and mentally assess what and why you are feeling certain emotions. Is the feeling of sublimity still relevant in today’s art? Are there certain components of society that might heighten or dull someone’s sense of sublimity?

  • Absolute music (music without lyrics) is a wholly non-representational art and thus is a form of pure sonic aestheticism. Perhaps that is sublime? – Brandon T. Gass 8 years ago
  • Must the sublime be considered only as a "sense" or "feeling"? Why no sublime-in-itself? – albee 8 years ago
  • Yes. But I think this discussion of the sublime needs more context. This is a great starting point: – arianalayla 8 years ago

Beauty Vs. Sublime in the Gothic

Think about representations of nature and physical characteristics in Gothic novels. Ann Radcliffe and Mary Shelly both focus on these aspects in their various writings. Especially in The Romance of the Forest and Frankenstein, the respective authors use imagery to highlight the sublime aspect in their novels. Whereas the beautiful is something humans perceive as "pretty" or "delicate", sublime is something humans perceive as "awful" and "striking". This derivation of the word awful can be understood from its Greek roots. In ancient greek, the word "awful" translates more as a terrible wonder, giving more meaning to the power of the source. In Gothic novels, the sublime hold this meaning. Things that humans stare in wonder, but are at the same time terrified of are often personified in the gothic. For example, a flower is usually beautiful, whereas a thunderstorm is sublime.

  • As a lover of all things Gothic in lit, I think this is a wonderful idea! The overwrought emotions and Romantic themes contribute to the terror and ambiguity in fiction such as Mary Shelley's. I wonder if you can even extend the sublime even partly to other Gothic subgenres, such as Southern Gothic. An intriguing thought. Still, when it comes to Brit lit alone, examining Romanticism's perspective of nature and how it's channeled in Gothic lit is a fascinating topic. – emilydeibler 8 years ago
  • I love this topic! Perhaps you could change some of your points to questions so whoever chooses this topic can create an argument from it. – emilyinmannyc 8 years ago
  • Thinking of the Gothic and then, particularly, the 19th-Century Novel, I am curious if this comparison differs between female and male writers, i.e. George Eliot vs. Dickens, the Bronte sisters vs. George Meredith, Austen vs. Twain, etc.? – Jeffery Moser 8 years ago
  • I feel that looking at many of these texts from an ecocritical perspective can also be quite interesting. The Romantic age correlated with an increasingly industrialized European world. Part of why the romantcized nature to this extent, was because they were removed from it. I am curious about how the perceptions of nature and the emotions that nature can elicit correspond with the then-unprecedented environmental destruction of the countryside, and the movement away from nature that many individuals probably experienced as they flocked to urban centers for employment. – Moonrattle 8 years ago