The Sublime

Edited by Robert R. Clewis (Gwynedd Mercy University, 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. added 2018-11-26
    The Sublime Reader.Robert R. Clewis (ed.) - 2019 - London: Bloomsbury.
    The first English-language anthology to provide a compendium of primary source material on the sublime. The book takes a chronological approach, covering the earliest ancient traditions up through the early and late modern periods and into contemporary theory. It takes an inclusive, interdisciplinary approach to this key concept in aesthetics and criticism, representing voices and traditions that have often been overlooked. As such, it will be of use and interest across the humanities and allied disciplines.
  2. added 2018-08-03
    The Sublime, Ugliness and Contemporary Art: A Kantian Perspective.Mojca Küplen - 2015 - Con-Textos Kantianos 1 (1):114-141.
    The aim of this paper is twofold. First, to explain the distinction between Kant’s notions of the sublime and ugliness, and to answer an important question that has been left unnoticed in contemporary studies, namely why it is the case that even though both sublime and ugliness are contrapurposive for the power of judgment, occasioning the feeling of displeasure, yet that after all we should feel pleasure in the former, while not in the latter. Second, to apply my interpretation of (...)
  3. added 2018-03-20
    Gerard, Kames, Alison, and Stewart.Rachel Zuckert - 2012 - In Timothy M. Costelloe (ed.), The Sublime: From Antiquity to the Present. Cambridge University Press. pp. 64.
    This essay concerns the theories of the sublime proposed by Alexander Gerard, Henry Home (Lord Kames), Archibald Alison, and Dugald Stewart. All four thinkers, I argue, aim to provide a philosophical account of the unity of the concept of the sublime, i.e., to respond to the question: what might all objects, art works, etc. that have been identified as sublime (or “grand”) in the philosophical, literary, art-theoretical, and rhetorical tradition have in common? Yet because they find the objects called “sublime” (...)
  4. added 2018-03-05
    Životaschopnosť Jedného Prístupu. Poznámky Ku Kantovskej Línii Interpretácie Kategórie Vznešeného.Adrián Kvokačka - 2012 - ESPES 1 (1):17-23.
    This paper pursues transformation of Kant's definition of the category sublime in post-Kantian aesthetic reflexion. Finding this line of thinking allows not only present relevant approaches to the whole history of the aesthetic category, but also to show the platform for new thinking not only in aesthetic discourse, but wherever the sublime enter today at the core of interest.
  5. added 2018-02-17
    Andrew Slade: Lyotard, Beckett, Duras, and the Postmodern Sublime. [REVIEW]Adrián Kvokačka - 2008 - Estetika 45 (2):243-249.
    A review of Andrew Slade‘s Lyotard, Beckett, Duras, and the Postmodern Sublime (New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien: Peter Lang Publishing Inc., 2007, 136 pp. ISBN 0820478628).
  6. added 2018-01-17
    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 (...)
  7. added 2018-01-17
    Aesthetics of the Sublime and Moral Education.Youngdon Youn - 2016 - Journal of Ethics 1 (108):31-49.
  8. added 2018-01-17
    The Sublime in Art: Kant, the Mannerist, and the Matterist Sublime. Vandenabeele - 2015 - Journal of Aesthetic Education 49 (3):32-49.
    Numerous contemporary artworks are found repellent, even by genuine art lovers, either because they deliberately derange our perception and imagination by an abundance of incoherent representations and stimuli or because they demand that we value seemingly nonsensical objects or all kinds of disgusting materials. Installations, collages, and so-called unassisted ready-mades especially cannot count on too much appreciation, unless the artists in question are sufficiently supported by clever managers who reduce their work to commodities, which then serve merely as illustrations of (...)
  9. added 2018-01-17
    The Sublime in Modern Philosophy: Aesthetics, Ethics, and Nature. By Emily Brady. [REVIEW]Michael R. Spicher - 2014 - American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 88 (3):598-600.
  10. added 2018-01-17
    Second Section: The Sublime and the Charming.Nicolai Hartmann - 2014 - In Aesthetics. De Gruyter. pp. 392-445.
  11. added 2018-01-17
    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 (...)
  12. added 2018-01-17
    Solitude and the Sublime: The Romantic Aesthetics of Individuation.Frances Ferguson - 2013 - Routledge.
    As interest in aesthetic experience evolved in the eighteenth century, discussions of the sublime located two opposed accounts of its place and use. Ferguson traces these two positions - the Burkean empiricist account and the Kantian formalist one - to argue that they had significance of aesthetics, including recent deconstructive and New Historicist criticism.
  13. added 2018-01-17
    A Sense Sublime.Richard Quinney - 2013 - Borderland Books.
  14. added 2018-01-17
    The Joycean Sublime.Anthony Moreno - unknown
    The purpose of my thesis is to analyze notions of the sublime in James Joyce’s Ulysses and how the sublime is evoked and presented in Joyce’s work. The present work will examine concepts of the sublime from the Classical and Medieval period, through the Enlightenment, and into the Romantic era to develop my own definition. Placing the sublime in a historical perspective allows me to discover how the sublime is at work through Joyce’s creative use of complex narrative approaches. The (...)
  15. added 2018-01-17
    A Arte Moderna Como Historicamente-Sublime Um Comentário Sobre o Conceito de Sublime Na Teoria Estética de TH. Adorno.Verlaine Freitas - 2013 - Kriterion: Revista de Filosofia 54 (127):157-176.
    O objetivo do texto é propor uma interpretação do conceito de sublime na Teoria estética de Theodor Adorno, partindo do confronto com leituras significativas de outros comentadores, de modo a fornecer uma concepção que associe o movimento de transcendência e alteridade da forma estética à dinâmica histórico-processual das obras. The objective of this paper is to propose an interpretation of the concept of sublime in the Aesthetic Theory of Theodor Adorno, starting with the confrontation with meaningful readings of other commentators, (...)
  16. added 2018-01-17
    The Sublime : Process and Mediation.Liza McCosh - 2013 - In Estelle Barrett & Barbara Bolt (eds.), Carnal Knowledge: Towards a 'New Materialism' Through the Arts. I.B. Tauris.
  17. added 2018-01-17
    Reassessing Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature in the Kantian Sublime. 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 (...)
  18. added 2018-01-17
    The First American Sublime.Chandos Michael Brown - 2012 - In Timothy M. Costelloe (ed.), The Sublime: From Antiquity to the Present. Cambridge University Press.
  19. added 2018-01-17
    Le Sublime Technologique.Jos de Mul & France Grenaudier-Klijn - 2011 - Diogène 233 (1):45.
  20. added 2018-01-17
    The Sublime Invention: Ballooning in Europe, 1783–1820. [REVIEW]Charles Gillispie - 2011 - British Journal for the History of Science 44 (1):130-131.
  21. added 2018-01-17
    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.
  22. added 2018-01-17
    Mencius' Aesthetics and its Position.Jiaxiang Hu - 2011 - Frontiers of Philosophy in China 6 (1):41-56.
    Mencius’ aesthetics unfolded around the ideal personality in his mind. Such an ideal personality belonged to a great man who was sublime, practical and honorable, and it was presented as the beauty of magnificence or the beauty of masculinity. Mencius put forward many propositions such as the completed goodness that is brightly displayed is called greatness, nourishing one’s grand qi 气 (the great morale personality), only after a man is a sage can he completely suits himself to his own form, (...)
  23. added 2018-01-17
    Lo Sublime y Lo Impensado En la Apuesta Vanguardista de Miltín 1934 de Juan Emar.Malva Marina Vásquez - 2011 - Aisthesis 50:216-229.
  24. added 2018-01-17
    A Timeless Sublime?Patrick Wright - 2010 - Angelaki 15 (2):85-100.
  25. added 2018-01-17
    Language and the Most Sublime in Kant's Third Critique.James Rasmussen - 2010 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 68 (2):155-166.
  26. added 2018-01-17
    Sublime Comedy: On the Inhuman Rights of Clowns.Joshua Delpech-Ramey - 2010 - Substance 39 (2):131-141.
  27. added 2018-01-17
    A Timeless Sublime? Reading the Feminine Sublime in the Discourse of the Sacred.Patrick Wright - 2010 - Angelaki 15 (2):85-100.
  28. added 2018-01-17
    ‘Having a Laugh’: Masculinities, Health and Humour.Robert Williams - 2009 - Nursing Inquiry 16 (1):74-81.
  29. added 2018-01-17
    Ambiguous Subjects: Dissolution and Metamorphosis in the Postmodern Sublime.Jennifer Wawrzinek - 2008 - Rodopi.
    In the history of ideas, the aesthetic categories of the sublime and the grotesque have exerted a powerful force over the cultural imagination. Ambiguous Subjects is one of the first studies to examine the relationship between these concepts. Tracing the history of the sublime from the eighteenth century through Burke and Kant, Wawrzinek illustrates the ways in which the sublime has traditionally been privileged as an inherently masculine and imperialist mode of experience that polices and abjects the grotesque to the (...)
  30. added 2018-01-17
    Irony in the Age of Empire: Comic Perspectives on Democracy and Freedom.Cynthia Willett - 2008 - Indiana University Press.
    Comedy, from social ridicule to the unruly laughter of the carnival, provides effective tools for reinforcing social patterns of domination as well as weapons for emancipation. In Irony in the Age of Empire, Cynthia Willett asks: What could embody liberation better than laughter? Why do the oppressed laugh? What vision does the comic world prescribe? For Willett, the comic trumps standard liberal accounts of freedom by drawing attention to bodies, affects, and intimate relationships, topics which are usually neglected by political (...)
  31. added 2018-01-17
    Is a Theory of the Sublime Possible?Jane Forsey - 2007 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 65 (4):381–389.
  32. added 2018-01-17
    Resonance and the Photographing of Medieval Architecture.Stuart Richmond - 2007 - Paideusis: Journal of the Canadian Philosophy of Education Society 16:69-82.
    In this essay I aim to convey in text and photographs what it might mean to experience medieval architecture with some degree of connectivity or what Wittgenstein calls, poetically, “resonance.” I provide examples of personal experiences of medieval architecture, and argue for the importance of historical knowledge, sensuous acquaintance, and a sympathetic imagination in gaining a resonant affiliation. Photography, I want to show, is a way of engaging aesthetically with medieval architecture that can, on occasion, lead to the making of (...)
  33. added 2018-01-17
    The Sublime and Education.Jamin Carson - 2006 - Journal of Aesthetic Education 40 (1):79-93.
  34. added 2018-01-17
    Why the Sublime Can Be Terrible.Scott McLemee - 2006 - The Philosophers' Magazine 33:21-21.
  35. added 2018-01-17
    Sublime, Necessarily Sublime, Christine V.Marguerite Duras & Andrew Slade - 2006 - Janus Head 9 (1).
  36. added 2018-01-17
    The Sublime Action.Alphonso Lingis - 2006 - Problemos 69.
  37. added 2018-01-17
    Cinematic IR, the Sublime and the Indis Tinctiveness of Art.Gerard Holden - 2006 - Millennium 34 (2):415.
  38. added 2018-01-17
    The Color of the Sublime is White.Jeffrey Downard - 2006 - Contemporary Aesthetics 4.
  39. added 2018-01-17
    Simulating the Unpresentable and the Sublime.Jung-In Kwon - 2005 - Analecta Husserliana 55 (63).
  40. added 2018-01-17
    The Art of the Sublime.Alison Ross - 2005 - Philosophy Today 49 (1):33-45.
  41. added 2018-01-17
    Kant on Painting and the Representation of the Sublime.Gabriele Tomasi - 2005 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 5 (3):545-567.
    The essay deals with the question of how works of art that evoke a sense of the sublime are to be analysed in terms of Kant’s theory. Although Kant assumes the possibility of a beautiful representation of the sublime, of a sublime “shaped by beauty”, that a work can appear sublime is not immediately clear. Contrapurposiveness plays a key role in the experience of the sublime, but art is an essentially purposive context and aims at beauty. Following readings such as (...)
  42. added 2018-01-17
    The Future of Art: An Aesthetics of the New and the Sublime (Review).John Fredrick Humphrey - 2004 - Symploke 12 (1):286-287.
  43. added 2018-01-17
    Généalogie du sublime.Alain Séguy-Duclot - 2004 - Revue des Sciences Philosophiques Et Théologiques 4:649-672.
  44. added 2018-01-17
    Alcohol Is Sublime.Robert Faivre - 2004 - Nature, Society, and Thought 17 (2):203-222.
  45. added 2018-01-17
    The Sublime: A Modern Trope for Literary Value and Poetic Reform.Marianne Giordani - 2004 - Dissertation, City University of New York
    Longinus on the sublime describes the extraordinary event of cognitive transformation peculiar to literary discourse; his idea resembles but is not the same as the metaphysical threshold, described by Wordsworth and Kant, where imagination ends but the mind continues in transcendent self-reflection. I consider those ideas in relation to seminal English criticism at the turn of the 18th century, which, I argue, adapted Longinus' model of literary conversion to the salvific narrative of Christian teleology and elaborated from it an epic (...)
  46. added 2018-01-17
    Awe or Envy: Herder Contra Kant on the Sublime.Rachel Zuckert - 2003 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 61 (3):217–232.
    I present and evaluate Johann Gottfried Herder's criticisms of Kant's account of the sublime and Herder's own theory of the sublime, as presented in his work, Kalligone. Herder's account and criticisms ought to be taken seriously, I argue, as (respectively) a non-reductive, naturalist aesthetics of the sublime, and as illuminating the metaphysical, moral, and political presuppositions underlying Kant's (and Burke's) accounts of the sublime.
  47. added 2018-01-17
    Sublime Poussin.David Carrier - 2003 - Common Knowledge 9 (1):167-167.
  48. added 2018-01-17
    The Gardens of Versailles and the Sublime.Alberto Jl Carrillo Canan - 2003 - Analecta Husserliana 78:47-58.
  49. added 2018-01-17
    Comme Un Sublime Esquif-- Essai Sur la Danse Contemporaine.Olivia Cohen - 2002
  50. added 2018-01-17
    Marcella Tarozzi Goldsmith, The Future of Art: An Aesthetics of the New and the Sublime Reviewed By.John Gibson - 2001 - Philosophy in Review 21 (1):41-42.
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