Reinventing the Sublime

Post-Romantic Literature & Theory

By Steven Vine

Looks at the return of the sublime in post-modernity, and at intimations of a 'post-Romantic' sublime in Romanticism itself. The sublime is explored as a discourse of 'invention' -- taking the Latin meaning of to 'come upon', 'find', 'discover' - that involves an encounter with the new, the unregulated and the surprising. Lyotard and Zizek, among others, have reconfigured the sublime for post-modernity by exceeding the subject-centred discourse of Romantic aesthetics, and promoting not a sublime of the subject, but of the unpresentable, the 'Real', the unknown, the other. 'Reinventing the Sublime' looks at 18th-century, Romantic, modernist and post-modern 'inventions' of the sublime alongside contemporary critical accounts of the relationship of sublimity to subjectivity, aesthetics, politics and history, including '9/11'. It reads Burke and Kant alongside post-modern discourses on the sublime, and Wordsworth, De Quincey and Mary Shelley in relation to temporality and materiality in Romanticism, and considers 'modernist' inflections of the sublime in T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf and Djuna Barnes in relation to the themes of disjunction and excess in modernity. The author examines the postmodern revisiting of the sublime in Thomas Pynchon, D.M Thomas and Toni Morrison, and draws on Lyotard's reading of the sublime as an aesthetic of the avant-garde and as a singular and disruptive 'event', to argue that the sublime in its post-modern and contemporary forms encodes an anxious but affirmative relationship to the ironies of temporality and history. 'Reinventing the Sublime' focuses on the endurance of the sublime in contemporary thinking, and on the way that the sublime can be read as a figure of the relationship of representation to temporality itself.

Publication Date: 6/1/2014
Format: Paper
ISBN: 9781845196752

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