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Early Eighteenth Century Conceptions of the Sublime

Cuccuru, Kathrine; (2020) Early Eighteenth Century Conceptions of the Sublime. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

In this thesis, I aim to identify and discuss the philosophical conception of the sublime that arises out of the important and influential early eighteenth century discussion in English of the ancient Greek rhetorical text Longinus’s Peri Hypsous (third century, usually translated in English as On the Sublime). To do so, I challenge the historians of aesthetics’ conventional approach that aims to identify and isolate the aesthetic as a distinct, autonomous kind in pre-aesthetic accounts of concepts now claimed by the field of aesthetics. Against the historians of aesthetics’ existing picture that deems the earliest English discussion of the sublime in poetry by John Dennis and the so called Longinian Tradition to be only concerned with the rhetorical sublime style, I argue that they actually introduce the discussion of the philosophically relevant sublime, which by way of identification will be referred to as the philosophical sublime. Also against the historians of aesthetics’ existing picture that attributes the Third Earl of Shaftesbury with the first account of aesthetic concept of the sublime as a distinct experience of nature, that is, the philosophically narrow natural sublime, I argue that Shaftesbury’s philosophical sublime has broader philosophical implications and a more nuanced relationship with the Longinian Tradition. Employing my history of philosophy approach to these accounts, I reveal that Dennis and Shaftesbury both similarly describe the philosophical sublime as a harmonious state of the human soul that when attained by the sublime genius is the perfection of human nature; that is, the height of human beauty, virtue, and knowledge. Further, on both of their accounts this sublime state of harmony is a form of direct experience of God’s divine nature. By looking at Alexander Pope’s satirical response to their discussion, I further argue that, although these accounts are deeply concerned with coming to know the true sublime and avoiding the false sublime, ultimately, they fail to reach the certainty that they aspire to. Thus, I offer a richer and more philosophically sophisticated view of the early eighteenth century discussion of the philosophical sublime.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Early Eighteenth Century Conceptions of the Sublime
Event: UCL
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2020. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10091294
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