Monday, October 24, 2011

I was reading through Longinus again this weekend, and I decided to try to get a better understanding of his qualifications of the sublime. After looking at some of them, I've come up with some problems that I had with a few of them. First, I have issues with Longinus' first "source of sublimity" he writes, "The first and most important is the power to conceive great thoughts..."(255). To exemplify this, he points us back to Xenophon's description of eyes. While I think this observation sounds like it makes a lot of sense, I am left wondering just exactly what a great thought is? Is it just the fact that Longinus found this particular idea clever or is there some other basis for making this great? He goes on to point out how personifying eyes is used in other places, both by Achilles and Agathocles. Is this what makes this a "great thought", the fact that it is shared by other people? This seems to make little sense, it would seem that this makes this idea less great as it is quite common. So at this point, I'm not sure if I can define what exactly Longinus' "great thought" is exactly.

I feel like I can talk about my problems with sources 4 and 5 almost a the same time because they are very similar to me. Source 4 is "noble diction" and 5 is "elevated word arrangement"
These are sources of the sublime which Longinus says "contains much food for reflection" (255) and "makes a strong and ineffaceable impression on memory" (255). As a sort of anti-example, I thought almost immediately of George Orwell, one of my favorite authors, and also Ben Jonson a great poet of the Renaissance. Both of these guys, or at least its how I've always understood their work, preferred a simpler style that is pretty easy to read and understand. For their time, (for me especially Jonson) they really don't seem to use "noble diction" and "elevated word arrangement" but rather aim to simply be understood. Here is a passage from Jonson's poem "inviting a friend to supper"
TO-NIGHT, grave sir, both my poore house, and I
Doe equally desire your companie :
Not that we thinke us worthy such a guest,
But that your worth will dignifie our feast,
With those that come ; whose grace may make that seeme
Something, which, else, could hope for no esteeme.
It is the faire acceptance, Sir, creates
The entertaynment perfect : not the cates (food)

While the diction does seem a bit different to us, in his time it would have been much more commonplace. Even now, see this as a pretty simple poem to understand, basically it is an invitation to a dinnerparty. One might ask how does leave an "ineffaceable impression"? Well, if you read the whole poem we see Jonson place a huge importance on the power of friendship and fellowship and on that level this poem can certainly be food for thought.

These are my two problems with Longinus' sources. I'd love someone to just say I don't understand his full argument though because that would probably help me on a SCD or something lol

1 comment:

  1. In one of my other classes, we started discussing what phrenology is: judging a character based on exterior physical attributes to describe their interior. What this essentially means is that someone being described with a long forehead doesn't only mean their face is long, it means they are "loose." So I thought of that when he talked about the eye part being sublime. Phrenology was a really big part of literature.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.