Ramble. Focus. Ramble.

Longinus: On the Sublime

This book was an excellent read. The word ‘sublime’ is of great importance and Longinus used it for reasons that he explains in his book. Sublime means loftiness and elevation or magnificence. Sublime is what truly gives style the essence and raises it above the ordinary. Longinus is of the view that art and nature both play an equal role in contributing to the sublimity in literature. Art is near perfection when it portrays nature at its best and nature is at the peak when the soul of nature is artistic. The five principle sources of sublimity that Longinus explains in his book are:

Grandeur of Thought:

The grandness of thought is the only way to produce sublime literature. He emphasizes that purity of mind and soul are very important and a writer that is morally excellent is able to produce sublime thoughts that make up great literature.

Capacity or Strong Emotion:

Inspired passion and unmatched emotion is one factor that contributes to literature’s sublimity. Literature that is of highest magnificence is always great in emotional capacity. True emotion at the right place is one thing that adds to the brilliance of the writing.

“I would confidently affirm that nothing makes so much for grandeur, as true emotion in the right place, for it inspires the words as it were, with a wild gust of mad enthusiasm and fills them with divine frenzy”

Appropriate Use of Figures

Longinus is of the opinion that figure of speech is highly important when it comes to writing. He devotes one third of his writing focussing on the figure of speech and emphasizes that the root of speech should be embedded in real emotion. Mechanical style of writing is not grand at all. To strengthen the sublime it is important that figure of speech is used at the right place conveying the exact meaning. This will support the sublime.

Nobility of Diction

This includes the choosing of words and their placement and Longinus emphasizes that the construction adds to sublimity as much as any other factor does. He maintains that words can give the appropriate meaning when they are used right. And often the excellent usage of words can tempt readers. This obviously adds to the sublimity of the writing. Words are the most important thing and they lend their brilliance to the sublime to add to the immensity of the literature.

Dignity of Composition

The last source of sublimity is composition and Longinus pays extra attention on its emphasis. A magnificent blend of thought, figure, words and passion is simply the key to an amazing composition. The better the blend is the better will be the composition and sublimity. Longinus asserts that such a high level of dignity in composition always has a great degree of persuasiveness in it. Not only that, but pleasure lies where such great composition lies.

Next, Longinus points out how to tell between true and false sublimity. Sublime is false if the characteristic of timidity of language can be seen. And also, if there is a cheap display of emotion that does not fit in time and place. True sublime literature always brings pleasure.





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This entry was posted on June 5, 2011 by in Philosophy and tagged , .
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