English 2200 Lecture on Longinus and Joseph Addison (sublime)
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Longinus and Joseph Addison
Monday, September 26, 2011
Longinus “On Sublimity”
1st Century sometime
Ok so pre-modern times was basically everyone before Philip Sidney. Early modern
times was Sidney to the 18th century. In pre-modern times questions like “What makes
this beautiful to you but not to me?” were not asked. People just kind of believed in a
“uniformity of humanity” that everyone would have the same ideas about everything. “I
think, therefore I am.” implies that we know we are real because we are conscious of
that fact. But kind of awkward because it means that whatever is going on in our
consciousness is real (but we could be insane/that is still very subjective).
“Does art exist for its own sake?” Another question that wasn’t asked. It was assumed
that everything just had a purpose.
“How did we come up with the idea for poetry?”
“How come poetry is different in different cultures?”
“What should I write about?” These questions weren’t asked back in pre-modern times.
Today we would “write what we know” but back then they wrote about whatever
All literature and the arts was originally for a very narrow group of people. Written for an
educated class, by an educated class.
-Longinus “peri hypsos” = on the subject of heights
-Sublimity depends on elevation, not extension. Going up, not wide, not expanding on
what you already have but adding a whole other dimension to it.
-He moves us to an expressive theory of literature and the arts from a mimetic theory which is
how Longinus is modern.
-Mimetic: visual art represents reality
-Expressive: comes out of the power of the artist
-5 Sources of Sublimity:
-power to conceive great thoughts
-strong/inspired emotion of the artist (very Anti-Platonic)
-certain kinds of figures: ways of manipulating language for rhetorical effects
-Noble diction (use of words)
-dignified, elevated word arrangement.
-He locates the sublime in language. You create sublime through the use of language
-Sappho: focuses on lots of sentences (poem that he uses as example of sublimity). Describes
the feelings you have when you are in love with someone.
-You feel the emotions along with the writer because of the way the writer wrote it. She
could’ve easily wrote “I was in love” but it wouldn’t be nearly as effective. It is still
plausible and realistic, but not boring.
-It gets to a bodily level and intensifies to an extreme point = sublime
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