The Sublime

Edited by Robert R. Clewis (Gwynedd Mercy College, Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München)
About this topic

The sublime (sublimity) has been described as an experience, feeling, or judgment. As a positively valenced feeling, it is similar to excitement, astonishment, or awe. The concept become influential in aesthetics through the reception of pseudo-Longinus’s work of rhetoric, On the Sublime, where the sublime referred to that inspiring or overwhelming quality in great literary works or speeches. In the modern period, it became associated more with nature than art, and was distinguished from beauty. It was seen as a positive aesthetic experience in response to vast or powerful (apparently formless) objects such as waterfalls and mountains. As an aesthetic experience, the sublime is distinguished from moral feelings and outright fear. Given its emotional intensity, the sublime is distinguished from wonder and curiosity. 

Key works It was through the reception of Pseudo-Dionysus's work of rhetoric, On the Sublime, and modern translations such as Longinus & Broom 1757, that the concept became influential in rhetoric and philosophy. Burke 1764 and Kant 2005 contributed influential accounts of sublimity.
Introductions Shaw 2006 and Kirwan 2005 provide good introductions.
Related categories
Siblings:See also:History/traditions: The Sublime

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  1. Artistic Sublime Revisited: Reply to Robert Clewis.Uygar Abaci - 2010 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 68 (2):170-173.
  2. The Most Sublime of All Laws: The Strange Resurgence of a Kantian Motif in Contemporary Image Politics.Emmanuel Alloa - 2015 - Critical Inquiry 41 (2):367-389.
    In recent years, the claim of the unrepresentability of the Shoah has stirred vivid debates, especially following the strong positions taken by the French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann and author of Shoah (1986). This claim of unrepresentability, it can be shown, draws part of its attraction from the fact that it oscillates undecidedly between a claim of logical impossibility (“the Shoah can’t be represented”) and a normative demand (“the Shoah shouldn’t be represented”). This essay analyzes the argumentative structure of the advocates (...)
  3. The Sublime Shepherdess.Julia Cooley Altrocchi - 1940 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 15 (4):700-701.
  4. Lo Sublime.Jaime Rubio Angulo - 1992 - Universitas Philosophica 17:37-50.
  5. The Sublime: A Reader in British Eighteenth-Century Aesthetic Theory.Andrew Ashfield & Peter de Bolla (eds.) - 2012 - Cambridge University Press.
    This collection of texts on the Sublime provides the historical context for the foundation and discussion of one of the most important aesthetic debates of the Enlightenment. The significance of the Sublime in the eighteenth century ranged across a number of fields - literary criticism, empirical psychology, political economy, connoisseurship, landscape design and aesthetics, painting and the fine arts, and moral philosophy - and has continued to animate aesthetic and theoretical debates to this day. However, the unavailability of many of (...)
  6. La Sublimidad y Lo Sublime.Pedro Aullón de Haro - 2007 - Editorial Verbum.
    El presente ensayo consiste en una interpretación y reconstrucción histórica y teórica de lo sublime en tanto que alojable en el concepto más general que se establece de sublimidad, al tiempo que una indagación acerca de la constitución de una teoría de lo sublime.
  7. The Sublime: Precursors and British Eighteenth Century Conceptions.Karl Axelsson - 2007 - Lang.
    This book explores the impulses behind the fascination for that experience.
  8. An Essay on the Sublime (1747).J. Baillie - 1953 - Los Angeles, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, University of California.
  9. Experiencias de Lo Sublime y Principios Racionales.José María Artola Barrenechea - 1990 - Revista de filosofía (Chile) 3:83-112.
  10. The Sublime.Garrett Baxter - 1929 - [Norfolk, Va.]The Economic Press.
  11. Il Sublime E la Non-Arte.C. Benedetti - 1990 - Rivista di Estetica 30 (36):55-64.
  12. Art: Reaching for the Sublime.Peter Benson - 1997 - Philosophy Now 18:22-23.
  13. Sensibility and Sense: The Aesthetic Transformation of the Human World.Arnold Berleant - 2010 - Imprint Academic.
    Aesthetic sensibility rests on perceptual experience and characterizes not only our experience of the arts but our experience of the world. _Sensibility and Sense_ offers a philosophically comprehensive account of humans' social and cultural embeddedness encountered, recognized, and fulfilled as an aesthetic mode of experience. Extending the range of aesthetic experience from the stone of the earth's surface to the celestial sphere, the book focuses on the aesthetic as a dimension of social experience. The guiding idea of pervasive interconnectedness, both (...)
  14. Art, Terrorism and the Negative Sublime.Arnold Berleant - 2009 - Contemporary Aesthetics 7.
    The range of the aesthetic has expanded to cover not only a wider range of objects and situations of daily life but also to encompass the negative. This includes terrorism, whose aesthetic impact is central to its use as a political tactic. The complex of positive and negative aesthetic values in terrorism are explored, introducing the concept of the sublime as a negative category to illuminate the analysis and the distinctive aesthetic of terrorism.
  15. Charles Brockden Brown and the Sublime.Kenneth Bernard - 1964 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 45 (2):235.
  16. Reflections on the "Wonderful Height and Size" of Gothic Great Churches and the Medieval Sublime.Paul Binski - 2010 - In C. Stephen Jaeger (ed.), Magnificence and the Sublime in Medieval Aesthetics: Art, Architecture, Literature, Music. Palgrave-Macmillan.
  17. The Kantian Sublime and the Revelation of Freedom by Clewis, Robert.Stefan Bird-Pollan - 2011 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 69 (3):348-350.
  18. Paesaggi Sublimi: Gli Uomini Davanti Alla Natura Selvaggia.Remo Bodei - 2008 - Bompiani.
  19. Reassessing Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature in the Kantian Sublime.Emily Brady - 2012 - Journal of Aesthetic Education 46 (1):91-109.
    The sublime has been a relatively neglected topic in recent work in philosophical aesthetics, with existing discussions confined mainly to problems in Kant's theory.1 Given the revival of interest in his aesthetic theory and the influence of the Kantian sublime compared to other eighteenth-century accounts, this focus is not surprising. Kant's emphasis on nature also sets his theory apart from other eighteenth-century theories that, although making nature central, also give explicit attention to moral character and mathematical ideas and generally devote (...)
  20. The First American Sublime.Chandos Michael Brown - 2012 - In Timothy M. Costelloe (ed.), The Sublime: From Antiquity to the Present. Cambridge University Press.
  21. The Philosophic Significance of the Sublime.Henry Bugbee - 1967 - Philosophy Today 11 (1):55.
  22. Sublime Poussin.David Carrier - 2003 - Common Knowledge 9 (1):167-167.
  23. The Gardens of Versailles and the Sublime.Alberto Jl Carrillo Canan - 2003 - Analecta Husserliana 78:47-58.
  24. The Sublime.E. F. Carritt - 1910 - Mind 19 (75):356-372.
  25. The Limits of the Sublime, the Sublime of Limits: Hermeneutics as a Critique of the Postmodern Sublime.Jerome Carroll - 2008 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 66 (2):171–181.
  26. The Sublime and Education.Jamin Carson - 2006 - Journal of Aesthetic Education 40 (1):79-93.
  27. Religion and the Sublime.Andrew Chignell & Matthew C. Halteman - 2012 - In Timothy M. Costelloe (ed.), The Sublime: From Antiquity to the Present. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    An effort to lay out a kind of taxomony of conceptual relations between the domains of the sublime and the religious. Warning: includes two somewhat graphic images. -/- .
  28. “The Place of the Sublime in Kant’s Project”.Robert Clewis - 2015 - Studi Kantiani 28:149-68.
    I emphasize the harmony between the sublime and the underlying concept of the purposiveness of nature, i.e. that the sublime is purposive through its initial contrapurposiveness. One favorable outcome of this reading is that it locates further unity in the Critique of Judgment, e.g. it helps make sense of why, besides historical reasons, Kant may have turned to the sublime in the first place in the “Critique of the Aesthetic Power of Judgment” (Part One of the CJ). I question some (...)
  29. What's the Big Idea?: On Emily Brady's Sublime.Robert R. Clewis - 2016 - Journal of Aesthetic Education 50 (2):104-118.
    “The sublime is a massive concept,” Emily Brady states in her book’s first sentence. Her lucid study of the sublime should interest scholars from a wide range of disciplines, from environmental philosophy and aesthetics to the history of philosophy, art history, and literary criticism. Although its title refers to modern philosophy, the book examines not only the period typically classified in philosophy as “modern,” but also romanticism and contemporary aesthetics. Brady aims “to reassess, and to some extent reclaim, the meaning (...)
  30. Replies to Paul Guyer and Melissa Zinkin.Robert R. Clewis - 2013 - Critique.
  31. A Case for Kantian Artistic Sublimity: A Response to Abaci.Robert R. Clewis - 2010 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 68 (2):167-170.
  32. The Kantian Sublime and the Revelation of Freedom.Robert R. Clewis - 2009 - Cambridge University Press.
    In this book Robert R. Clewis shows how certain crucial concepts in Kant's aesthetics and practical philosophy - the sublime, enthusiasm, freedom, empirical and intellectual interests, the idea of a republic - fit together and deepen our understanding of Kant's philosophy. He examines the ways in which different kinds of sublimity reveal freedom and indirectly contribute to morality, and discusses how Kant's account of natural sublimity suggests that we have an indirect duty with regard to nature. Unlike many other studies (...)
  33. Costelloe, Timothy M., Ed. The Sublime: From Antiquity to the Present. Cambridge University Press, 2012, Xiii + 304 Pp., 36 B&W Illus., $35.95 Paper. [REVIEW]Tom Cochrane - 2013 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 71 (4):390-392.
  34. The Emotional Experience of the Sublime.Tom Cochrane - 2012 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 42 (2):125-148.
    The literature on the venerable aesthetic category of the sublime often provides us with lists of sublime phenomena — mountains, storms, deserts, volcanoes, oceans, the starry sky, and so on. But it has long been recognized that what matters is the experience of such objects. We then find that one of the most consistent claims about this experience is that it involves an element of fear. Meanwhile, the recognition of the sublime as a category of aesthetic appreciation implies that attraction, (...)
  35. Magnificence in Miniature : The Case of Early Medieval Manuscripts.Adam S. Cohen - 2010 - In C. Stephen Jaeger (ed.), Magnificence and the Sublime in Medieval Aesthetics: Art, Architecture, Literature, Music. Palgrave-Macmillan.
  36. Comme Un Sublime Esquif-- Essai Sur la Danse Contemporaine.Olivia Cohen - 2002
  37. The Sublime: From Antiquity to the Present.Timothy M. Costelloe (ed.) - 2012 - Cambridge University Press.
    Machine generated contents note: 'The sublime'. A short introduction to a long history Timothy M. Costelloe; Part I. Philosophical History of the Sublime: 1. Longinus and the ancient sublime Malcolm Heath; 2...And the beautiful? revisiting Edmund Burke's 'double aesthetics' Rodolphe Gasche; 3. The moral source of the Kantian sublime Melissa Meritt; 4. Imagination and internal sense: the sublime in Shaftesbury, Reid, Addison, and Reynolds Timothy M. Costelloe; 5. The associative sublime: Kames, Gerrard, Alison, and Stewart Rachel Zuckert; 6. The 'prehistory' (...)
  38. A Theology of the Sublime.Clayton Crockett - 2001 - Routledge.
    Crockett develops a constructive radical theology from the philosophy of Kant. Reading The Critique of Judgment back into The Critique of Pure Reason, Crockett draws upon the insights of such continental philosophers as Heidegger, Derrida, Lyotard and Deleuze. This book shows how existential notions of self, time and imagination are interrelated in Kantian thinking, and demonstrates their importance for theology. An original theology of the sublime emerges as a connection is made between the Kantian sublime of the Third Critique and (...)
  39. The Aesthetic Domain: Locating the Sublime.Paul Crowther - 1989 - British Journal of Aesthetics 29 (1):21-31.
  40. "Mallarmé and the Sublime": Louis Wirth Marvick. [REVIEW]Paul Crowther - 1987 - British Journal of Aesthetics 27 (4):383.
  41. The Discourse of the Sublime: Readings in History, Aesthetics, and the Subject.Peter De Bolla - 1989 - Blackwell.
  42. The (Bio)Technological Sublime.J. de Mul - 2012 - Diogenes 59 (1-2):32-40.
  43. Le Sublime Technologique.Jos de Mul & France Grenaudier-Klijn - 2011 - Diogène 233 (1):45.
  44. Finite Agents, Sublime Feelings: Response to Hanauer.Katerina Deligiorgi - 2016 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 74 (2):199-202.
    Tom Hanauer's thoughtful discussion of my article “The Pleasures of Contra-purposiveness: Kant, the Sublime, and Being Human” puts pressure on two important issues concerning the affective phenomenology of the sublime. My aim in that article was to present an analysis of the sublime that does not suffer from the problems identified by Jane Forsey in “Is a Theory of the Sublime Possible?”. I argued that Kant's notion of reflective judgment can help with this task, because it allows us to capture (...)
  45. The Pleasures of Contra‐Purposiveness: Kant, the Sublime, and Being Human.Katerina Deligiorgi - 2014 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 72 (1):25-35.
    Serious doubts have been raised about the coherence of theories of the sublime and the usefulness of the concept. By contrast, the sublime is increasingly studied as a key function in Kant's moral psychology and in his ethics. This article combines methodological conservatism, approaching the topic from within Kant's discussion of aesthetic judgment, with reconstruction of a conception of human agency that is tenable on Kantian grounds. I argue that a coherent theory of the sublime is possible and useful, and (...)
  46. Sublime Comedy: On the Inhuman Rights of Clowns.Joshua Delpech-Ramey - 2010 - Substance 39 (2):131-141.
  47. Listening to Magnificence in Medieval Paris.Emma Dilon - 2010 - In C. Stephen Jaeger (ed.), Magnificence and the Sublime in Medieval Aesthetics: Art, Architecture, Literature, Music. Palgrave-Macmillan.
  48. The Tragic and the Comic Tereus.Gregory Dobrov - 1993 - American Journal of Philology 114 (2):189-234.
  49. The Color of the Sublime is White.Jeffrey Downard - 2006 - Contemporary Aesthetics 4.
  50. Sublime, Necessarily Sublime, Christine V.Marguerite Duras & Andrew Slade - 2006 - Janus Head 9 (1).
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