Resources - The Sublime - Links

Luke White

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General overviews / introductions to the history of the development of the idea of the sublime

"The Sublime - An Overview" George P. Landow

George Landow's website is an excellent basic introduction outlining the development of the history of the notion of the sublime. Very accessable.
'The Sublime' Janice E. Patten

another brief outline - brief summaries of Longinus, Burke, Kant and Wordsworth

wikipedia entry on 'the sublime (philosophy)' It's Wikipedia. Need I say more?

Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory -

Early 18th Century British Criticism
Late 18th Century British Criticism
British Criticism - Romanticism and Early 19th Century


The Johns Hopkins Press's Guide to Literary Theory is not about the sublime as such, but seems to me to be one of the best general accounts of the history of literary criticism and theory on the internet, and the links to the left give just some of the pages where the question of the 'sublime' and its development in theoretical thought through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are discussed. It's also a really useful website for putting this development in the context of the broader stream of literary / critical history. I haven't included links, but there are also interesting entries on some of the more recent writers who have used the notion of the sublime, such as Paul De Man and Harold Bloom. Since orignally posting, the guide has become protected so that it is available for subscribers only, but I have kept the links here, in case you have this through your university.
'The Sublime in External Nature', entry to the Dictionary of the History of Ideas, University of Virginia This entry is written by the excellent Marjorie Hope Nicholson, author of Mountain Gloom and Mountain Glory.
'Sublime' , in The Literary Enclyclopedia This short and clear summary history of the notion of the sublime, spans from Longinus (1st century AD) to the present, with a couple of interesting thoughts on the relevance of the term to contemporary culture.

Resources - Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Culture in General

International Society for Eighteenth Century Studies

Lots of links and resources about eighteenth century life and culture.
Jack Lynch's pages

Jack Lynch is professor of English Literature at Rutgers, and specialises in the eighteenth century.

The Bluestocking Archive online texts by and material on the 'Bluestockings'

Literary Gothic

information on the 'Gothic' genre. See especially the resources page of this website

Romanticism on the Net

A refereed online journal centred on Romanticism. There is also a links page with further sites related to Romanticism and the Gothic
Internet Modern History Sourcebook - romanticism Links on Romanticism in philosophy, literature and the arts

Voice of the Shuttle - Romantics

sources on Romanticism in literature
Voice of the Shuttle - 18th Century and Restoration sources on 18th century literature
eserver - 18th century Studies more on the 18th century
Romantic Circles a scholarly 'metaresource' (!) on Romanticism

Online 'etext' versions of works from the 18th/19th centuries

Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgement (1790)

Probably the most famous philosphical account of the sublime, and the touchstone for almost all later philosophical works dealing with the subject is in Kant's Critique of Judgement. The University of Adelaide online version is from James Creed Meredith's translation, which is unfortunately not as clear as the more contemporary translations, such as Eric Matthews' version, published by Cambridge University Press. A version in the original German is also available from Project Gutenberg.
Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origins of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757 - 2nd ed. 1759)

Burke's essay has also been seminal in the history of the sublime. It is the only essay on the sublime which Kant cites in his Analytic of the Sublime in the Critique of Judgment, as well as being influential on eighteenth-century European critics from Johnson to Diderot. It's one of the most sustained accounts of the sublime in eighteenth century British writing, attmepting to pull much of what came before into a synthesis. It is notable for its attempt to think the sublime in terms of psychology, and for its argument that the basis of the feeling of the sublime lies in feelings of terror andf a recognition of our mortality. Burke's essay emphatically sets the sublime in opposition tothe beautiful, and is nowadays notorious for its organisation of the oposition of the two terms in relation to questions of gender, proposing beauty as 'feminine' and sublimity as a 'masculine' attribute.

Longinus, Peri Hupsous [= 'On the Sublime'] (probably 1st century A.D.) It is the 'rediscovery' of this ancient work on rhetoric, by renowned Neoclassicist poet and critic Nicholas de Boileau-Despreaux, who translated it into French as 'Du Sublime' , (1674) that started the craze for the the term 'sublime'. Longinus is interested in the power of great poetry - even if it does not follow the 'rules' of 'good' poetry - to throw its readers into transports of ecstacy, to carry them off by the sheer force of its ideas and expression. This translation is by W. Rhys Roberts.
Joseph Addison, Pleasures of the Imagination papers in The Spectator (1712) The Spectator was the journal of the early eighteenth century; in it Addison and Steele attempted to forge a polite, Whiggish, urbane culture of manners and letters that would unite the propertied and landed classes into a coherent 'public'. Addison, very much the King of English Letters of the period, wrote a series of papers on 'The Pleasures of the Imagination' (issues 411-421). Addison discusses 'the Great,' which is essentially synonymous with what other writers ahve named the sublime. His division of the 'pleasures of the imagination' into the distinct pleasures of beautiful, the great, and the novel was highly influential in the development of the idea of the sublime as something distinct from the beautiful, and in particular had an influence on the development of Burke's division between sublimity and beauty. Other papers of interest, in particular are Addison's papers on Milton.

Friedrich Schiller, 'On the Sublime' (1801)

Schiller, a German Romantic playwright, poet and philosopher was very much a follower of Kant, and was fascinated by Kant's notion of the sublime. His account of the sublime is somewhat easier to read than Kant's (!)
Friedrich Schiller, Of the Sublime: Toward the Further Elaboration of Some Kantian Ideas (1793) Another essay by Schiller.
Ann Radcliffe - 'On the Supernatural in Poetry' (.pdf file) A Gothic renegotiation of Burke's sublime.

Some literary sources - etexts

Anna Laetitia Barbauld, A Summer Evening's Meditation (1773)

A typical but rather beautiful example of an eighteenth-century poem evoking the sublime infinity of Newtonian space, from an electronic edition of Barbauld's works from Romantic Circles.
Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1812)

Byron's semi-autobiographical poem, a prime example of the Romantic.

John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667) During the eighteenth century, Milton's name was almost inseparable from the epithet 'sublime'. Almost every eighteenth century author of a treatise on the sublime in literature cites passages from Milton. He was valued more highly than Shakespeare at the time, though to modern readers he can often seem rather dull and pompous.

Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794)

A classic Gothic novel, full of incidences of teh description of sublime landscape.
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) needs no introduction!
Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto (1764) Walpole's Piranesi-inspired 'Romance', based on a dream, became the progenitor of the Gothic genre
William Wordsworth The Prelude (1805) Wordsworth articulates his poetic theory and vision through an autobiographical poem.

The Contemporary sublime

(this is a rather short list, I hope for obvious reasons. For contemporary theoretical writing on the sublime, see instead the bibliography page of my site. If you have produced online resources around the contemporary sublime, please do feel free to email me, and I'll be glad to consider adding them to my site!

Joanna Zylinska, "Sublime Speculations: The Economy of the Gift in Feminist Ethics" j-spot online

Gives a flavour of Zylinska's arguments in her book On Spiders, Cyborgs and Being Scared.
Lyotard Auto-differend page an interactive page based on Lyotard's philosophical ideas, with some quotes on the sublime.



if any of these links are broken, please contact me to let me know!

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