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The Sublime

Precursors and British Eighteenth-Century Conceptions

Karl Axelsson

The appeal of the sublime in the minds of British critics and poets during the eighteenth century holds a unique position in the history of aesthetics. At no other time has aesthetics displayed a similar interest in the experience of the sublime. This book explores the impulses behind the fascination for that experience. The Greek treatise Peri Hupsous by Longinus constitutes the earliest source for the experience of the sublime, and as such it shaped much of British eighteenth-century criticism. But the attraction of the sublime received stimulus from other sources as well. In the effort to expand the context of the sublime, the author considers the incentives provided not only by Longinus, but also by the criticism of intellectual literature during the second half of the seventeenth century; a body of criticism that was not primarily concerned with the sublime, but which nevertheless served as an important link to its subsequent appeal.
Contents: Accounts of the History of the Sublime - The Idea of a Turning Point - Interpretations of the Progress – The Longinian Treatise - Longinus and the Critics - Transgression - The Expediency of Plato - Imagination – The Sublime and the Imagination - The Experience of the Sublime - Criticism of Intellectual Literature - Hobbes: Intimations of the Sublime.